MONCTON – A pilot project launched this week in New Brunswick will see bars across the province have free condoms available to try to encourage patrons to have safer sex.
Debby Warren, Executive Director of AIDS Moncton, one of the groups behind the pilot, says the rates of sexually transmitted infections are high in New Brunswick, especially among young adults ages 19 to 25.
“Up to 70 per cent of people are not even aware that they may have the infection,” she said of chlamydia, which is particularly high. “So obviously if left untreated, it can cause other issues. So for example in young women, it could affect their fertility.”
According to AIDS New Brunswick, chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis have been on the rise in recent years in the province. The pilot project, dubbed “FreeDomes,” is trying to lower the rate of infections.
“It’s a pilot project basically to encourage condom use, because we know that condoms are 98 per cent effective – the male condom – when used consistently and properly,” Warren said.
She said young adults are one of the groups that are most susceptible to being infected by an STI, but reminded that other age groups are also vulnerable.
The Moncton team has created a condom mascot named Richard, who will be going around to bars to hand out condoms. Warren said the point is to use humor to get people talking and make them more comfortable about the subject.
Wize Guyz Pub on Robinson street in Moncton is one of the bars participating in the pilot. Tyler Blakely, the pub’s bartender, says customer feedback on the program has been positive.
“They emptied pretty quickly. So people are using them,” he said. Blakely said they got a new delivery of condoms on Tuesday because they ran out of their first batch.
“We thought it was important to participate because we have a lot of customers that make poor decisions and we want them to make wise decisions,” he said.
The pilot will run for seven weeks. Warren said encouraging condom-use is also a wise decision for the province.
“It costs a lot more to treat, than it does to prevent,” she said, adding that each condom only costs about 15 cents.