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A West Philly Connection

Posted by Condomologist on April 21, 2009

Today, in the dreary rain at Superfresh grocery in West Philadelphia, while handing out condoms in the parking lot outside our Mobile Testing Unit, I had a surprisingly refreshing 10-minute conversation with a 40-something passerby. When it began, it could’ve been any other quickie interaction: He refused the condoms I offered, because I didn’t have his preferred brand and style. But then it got deeper.

First, he made clear that the reason for eschewing the Lifestyles XL, Durex XXL, Lifestyles Vanilla and Mint, and Mazzoni Center Joe Lube condoms I had to offer was that he used only Lifestyles His n’ Her Pleasure because of the importance of both partners receiving stimulation from the condom. We then engaged in a stimulating dialogue about the larger societal and structural issues affecting black youth in his community and the fact that poverty, single- and no-parent households, low self-esteem and high incarceration rates of young black men — leading to fewer partner options for young women, and thus a decreased ability to negotiate safer sex with the men available on the outside — all play significant roles in the alarmingly high rates of HIV and other STDs in his community. These issues seldom come up even at the workplace, so it was that much more surprising and rewarding to delve into them with a stranger. We agreed that my handing out condoms was but a small piece of the puzzle, that our condom distribution efforts alone could make but a dent in a battle that often appears overwhelming. We shook hands, I told him I truly appreciated meeting and chatting with him, he said he’d pray for me. Thank you, stranger. I hope we meet again.


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