Volunteers to distribute condom kits at taverns to fight sexually transmitted infection

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Shelly Birkelo
Wednesday, April 2, 2014

JANESVILLE—Bar patrons in Janesville, Milton and Beloit will be offered free condom packets Friday night by a group trying to prevent sexually transmitted infection.

Volunteers with the Rock County Coalition for Sexually Transmitted Infection Prevention assembled 500 kits in March for distribution between 8 p.m. and midnight Friday at taverns in the three cities.

Each plastic bag contains male and female condoms, lubricants, usage instructions and a postcard of sexual health information, including where to get tested for sexually transmitted diseases.

Organizers hope the first-time effort will become an annual event to educate the public about sexually transmitted infection in Rock County, said Ron Nikora, coalition leadership team member and assistant professor for health and society at Beloit College.

It's being held in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control National Sexually Transmitted Disease Awareness Month, he said.

“We can sort of capitalize on the CDC's efforts as well as advertising testing to encourage people to get tested and to receive other information about sexual health,” Nikora said.

People are embarrassed about getting tested and are afraid to have a conversation about sexually transmitted infections, said Marc Perry of Community Action, a coalition member.

Coalition members “want to encourage people to get tested, treatment and use safe sex practices so we can do something about the gonorrhea and chlamydia in this county, where the numbers are really high,” he said.

“Our per capita transmission rate is at the same level as Milwaukee and Racine (counties),” Perry said.

Most reported cases of chlamydia and gonorrhea continue to occur among 18- to 24-year-olds. Although the percentage of cases in that age group were down 3.5 percent in 2013, cases among people 30 to 49 years old increased 2.9 percent, and cases among people 50 and older increased 2.1 percent.

Friday's distribution is one of the first steps in trying to lower those rates, Nikora said.

“We think awareness is how we start,” he said.

The coalition started more than a year ago with grant funding through the Rock County Health Department. When a second round of grant funding didn't come through, coalition members decided to use their own resources, Nikora said.

“From a basic health standpoint, it is our desire to see everyone live healthier lives. We are simply an organization of concerned individuals and groups who think this is an important issue,” he said.

Perry agreed: “The idea is the more we talk about it, hopefully, that everybody decides it's important to get tested, treated and really thinking consciously about their sexual health.”

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