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AZ New Year’s Eve Safe Sex Effort Expanding

December 30, 2013

PHOENIX - Aside from Spring Break, New Year's Eve may be the biggest occasion of the year for risky behavior including unprotected sex. An Arizona campaign to encourage safe sex among holiday partiers is now in its second year.

According to John Welch, preventions/interventions manager for the Southwest Center for HIV/AIDS, there's a strong connection between substance use and sexually-transmitted infections.

"When you hear somebody sharing their story about when they became infected, a lot of times it starts with 'One night when I was drunk...' All it takes is one time, and when you think about rates of other sexually-transmitted infections including HIV, you know rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea are extremely high, and especially high among young people."

The "Party Prepared" safe sex effort features thousands of condoms disguised as matchbooks, to be handed out during New Year's Eve parties at bars, restaurants, hotels and nightclubs around metro Phoenix and Tucson.

Planned Parenthood Arizona's director of family planning and primary care, Laura Dalton, noted that condoms are extremely effective in preventing the spread of sexually-transmitted infections.

"Condoms, we know, definitely protect you from the transmission of HIV, which can lead to AIDS. And we also know that it helps reduce the transmission of infections such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, and we also believe that it does reduce the transmission of ulcers and HSV viruses as long as the condom is covering any possible outbreaks."

She added that condoms are also very helpful in preventing pregnancy.

Some would argue that abstinence should be the primary method of preventing unwanted pregnancies and sexually-transmitted infections. However, the Southwest Center's John Welch said that's not realistic for most people, because humans are sexual beings.

"I think that what's important in HIV prevention messages and other sexual health messages is really open, honest communication with partners, deciding for yourself what steps you're able and willing to take to protect your own sexual health and the sexual health of the people that you care about."

The New Year's Eve safe sex campaign hopes to distribute more than 5000 matchbook condoms Tuesday night.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ