Today marks the beginning of National Condom Week, during which thousands of learning institutions, public health agencies, family planning centers and AIDS organizations nationwide will sponsor events to increase awareness of the benefits of condom use.

Paul Wong
Safe Sex Store employee Dana Spitz helps LSA junior Dara Frank at the South University Avenue shop Saturday.<br><br>ELLIE WHITE/Daily

“It is very important to know this information to protect personal health,” Beth Karmeisool, owner of the Safe Sex Store on South University Ave., said. This week, the store plans to hold its annual Valentine”s Day promotional sale as well as support National Condom Week through donations to local groups.

This week long event was organized in 1978 at the University of California”s Berkeley campus.

Over the years, support for National Condom Week has grown as the number of cases of sexual transmitted diseases has increased. One-fifth of the U.S. population has an STD. Two-thirds of all STDs occur in people age 25 or younger and a fourth of all new STD infections occur among teenagers. STDs other than HIV cost about $8 billion to diagnose and treat annually.

“I think it”s great that a lot of attention is being paid to the importance of condom use,” said LSA junior Casey Shattuck. “At the same time, I feel like people are pretty much set in their ways. You”re either going to practice safe sex or you”re not.”

The University Health Services has no special plans for National Condom Week.

“We”re focusing on Spring Break kits, which tend to be popular with students and do include condoms,” said Polly Paulsen, health education coordinator. She added that UHS does offer five free condoms a day to students every day.

The city of Detroit, on the other hand, is going all out on National Condom Week. The Detroit Free Press recently reported that the budget for condoms, to distribute throughout the week, has increased to $6,000, up from last year”s budget of $500.

Detroit Health Department workers are keeping busy during the week, handing out free condoms at everywhere from car washes to comedy clubs.

Mark Wilson, the director of the sexually transmitted disease program for the city”s health department, told the Free Press, “We”re going to establishments where sexual activities may at least initiate.”

“The younger generation feels they are invincible, that these things are not going to happen to them, so it is not a problem for them to have unprotected sex,” Wilson said. “We want them to know this could happen to anyone.”

The danger among youths of contracting an STD was highlighted last week in a study released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The study revealed that a third of young black gay men in several large U.S. cities have the HIV virus. This rate is four times larger than the number of young white gay men with HIV in the same areas.

Karmeisool said that although National Condom Week promotes the education and practice of safe sex, it should not be a once a year message.

“These issues are important to recognize all the time, at all universities,” she said.

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