As Lil Wayne observed in his 2008 Grammy-winning song “Lollipop,” latex is a good way to avoid the “I’m late” text. It’s also a key way to avoid sexually transmitted diseases — but contraception can still be pricey and awkward, especially for younger folks.
Philadelphia government wants to help. Each year, the city distributes 750,000 free condoms, according to the Health Department.
Along with the three quarters of a million sheaths for men, it also gives out 13,000 “female” or internal condoms, spokesperson James Garrow said. These have nearly the same potential to block unwanted pregnancies and STDs.
Where are these sex-positive aids handed out? At about 170 locations in neighborhoods across town — which we’ve put into a handy map in case you happen to be on the go and in looking for no-cost protection.
Caveat: the map might not be fully accurate, Garrow warned, because an update to the available dataset is pending, so a couple of spots may have dropped out.
It’s even easier for Philly teenagers to get their hands on protection — they can order both male and female condoms online and have them discreetly delivered for free.
Philly’s efforts to expand contraception access began nearly a decade ago, with the goal of decreasing the city’s relatively high incidence of adolescent STDs. That’s still a concern: overall rates of syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia have all surged in the past five years, per Health Dept. data, mirroring a nationwide trend.
The Take Control Philly initiative provides sexual health information for teens and their parents, and allows people aged 13 to 19 to mail-order condoms.
When the site was initially rolled out in 2011, some media outlets reported it targeted the age bracket of 11 to 19 years old, which some parents felt was too young a start. The city acknowledges it can’t actually age-verify who used the service — but remains nonplussed about it.
“It’s possible that younger folks may have received the condoms,” Garrow told Billy Penn. “And honestly, we were never opposed to that happening.”
The mail-order service offers the options to select flare tip, ribbed, XL and even latex-free condoms. Also available is the city’s branded “Freedom Condom,” made by wholesaler Total Access.
Public schools in Philly began installing condom dispensers in 2012, Garrow said, and have since expanded to every public high school and some charter schools across the district.