WEST HOLLYWOOD: Council Approves Voluntary Condom Distribution
West Hollywood City Council members approved a plan to distribute 300,000 condoms annually in an effort to address what has been termed a "public health emergency," the Los Angeles Times reports. The council, however, decided not to order "all bars, nightclubs, coffeehouses and adult businesses in the two-square-mile city to distribute them free to customers," voting instead to monitor businesses' voluntary compliance. The council will review the giveaway in one year. The voluntary distribution plan was not enough for Michael Weinstein, head of AIDS Healthcare Foundation. Weinstein wants a mandatory giveaway enacted, and said he will turn in petitions to force the issue on the November ballot. He said, "This is the red light district, although people deny it. ... West Hollywood is where people meet to eat, drink and have sex." Weinstein spearheaded the distribution drive last February when he pushed for the issue to be decided by voters, but tabled it when city council members decided to consider an ordinance to make the distribution mandatory. However, Weinstein resurrected the petition drive last November, when he determined that the council's pace was too slow. The present agreement was reached after a group of nightclub owners decided to voluntarily keep fish bowls filled with condoms on their bars -- and in light of the fact that some business owners object to mandatory distribution. John St. Jarre, operator of the Revolver, said, "To make it a mandatory program in my view is a disaster." Arich Berghammer, manager of the House of Blues, added, "If they mandate it, I suspect they will have a fight on their hands." And Michael Niemeyer, owner of Micky's, one of the city's voluntary condom distribution points, said, "Do you really need to see condoms in a restaurant? Do you as an adult have to have that kind of intrusion when you go out? Having condoms every four feet around you is insulting." West Hollywood makes up 0.5% of Los Angeles County's population, but 7% of the county's AIDS cases. Officials have said that "growing numbers of young men are having unprotected sex, either because of a false feeling of invulnerability to the AIDS virus or because of the impression that drugs now control the disease and that its threat has declined" (Pool, 1/4).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.