The Cayman Aids Society plans to attack the HIV/AIDS problem through the distribution of free condoms at bars and nightclubs on Grand Cayman.
The Foundation has received a Government budget allocation of $15,000 for the purchase of 15,000 condoms and to promote proper condom use in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
Public Health Officer Dr. Kiran Kumar supports the move, saying it is a welcome enhancement to existing vending machines.
The plan is to distribute batches of condoms to bar owners, who will then be free to display them for their patrons in any tasteful way they wish.
‘The biggest challenge in fighting HIV/AIDS in Grand Cayman is the stigma attached to it,’ said AIDS Foundation President Jennison Nunez.
‘AIDS is a reality on this island that is not going away. We hope this initiative will help open up the subject to better educate the public and change the way this disease is perceived.’
Cayman AIDS Foundation Executive Board Member Clara Smith said that a similar initiative proposed several years ago met with approval from the bar and nightclub owners they spoke with.
‘While thankfully our infection levels are low, if current behaviour doesn’t change, HIV/AIDS will become an increasingly serious problem here,’ she said.
Ms Smith said the group is focusing not only on making the condoms available, but also on educating people on how to use them properly. They intend to hold information sessions for interested mature adults and bar staff.
‘We want to make it easier for people to protect themselves and to be more aware that there is a real need to practice low-risk behaviour.’
At the moment, the foundation has only taken delivery of a portion of the condoms, half of which will be distributed among 11 clubs and bars all over Grand Cayman, with particular emphasis on establishments frequented by sex workers.
The other half will go to family doctors. The doctors will also receive female condoms to distribute to their patients.
The Foundation will monitor the programme’s success to determine where the highest demand is so it can distribute the condoms accordingly over the coming year.
Mrs. Smith appealed to other nightclub and bar owners to contact the AIDS Foundation if they are also interested in participating in the program.
The Cayman AIDS Foundation, established 10 years ago, was set up to reduce HIV/AIDS transmission and infection in the Cayman Islands. Because of a lack of funds and staff, their activities have been limited but have already had a high impact.
During Batabano, the Foundation’s condom giveaway was a huge success. Nearly 5,000 free condoms were given out that week alone.
The only place free condoms are normally available is from the Public Health office.
‘There is clearly a demand for free condoms, and it seems people want to get them from a more anonymous source,’ said Mrs. Smith.
She says the Foundation is happy the Government made the decision to make free condoms more readily available, saying many people are still uncomfortable buying condoms at pharmacies where they must ask for them in person over the counter, which is not helping the AIDS fight.
‘We appreciate that the government has made this step to dedicate money and human resources to this important cause,’ she said.
Interested bar owners are invited to call 926-7253