Metro-East News

Condoms will be handed out in St. Louis taverns Friday night for World AIDS Day

Volunteers from Planned Parenthood will be handing out condoms at St. Louis taverns Friday night, as part of World AIDS Day.

The annual “Condom Crawl” sends volunteers to pass out free condoms and encourage people enjoying the night life to practice safer sex, as well as encouraging regular testing for sexually transmitted infections.

Approximately 5,000 “safer sex kits” will be handed out Friday, according to Planned Parenthood. They include condoms, lubricant and testing information about sexually transmitted infections and HIV.

“The Condom Crawl is an opportunity for volunteers and staff to engage with the community, share our services, and enjoy a fun night out,” said Mark Halastik, Planned Parenthood development officer. “We are excited to be working with such a diverse group of volunteers. We look forward to reaching a wider group of people, many of whom will choose to visit one of our health centers for testing, treatment, or other services.”

St. Louis has one of the highest rates of sexually transmitted disease infections in the U.S., according to the federal Centers for Disease Control.

Planned Parenthood estimates about 6,000 people are living with HIV/AIDS in the St. Louis region. The organization is also offering free testing to any Missouri resident age 25 and under at its St. Louis locations. While the same testing is available in Illinois, the grant that pays for the fee waivers limits the free testing to Missouri residents at the Missouri locations, according to Planned Parenthood. Illinois residents can still be tested on a sliding scale at the Fairview Heights center.

The kit distribution will begin at about 9 p.m. in north St. Louis, South Grand, Cherokee, Delmar Loop, The Grove, the Central West End and Midtown/Grand Center, as well as downtown Springfield, Missouri.

Elizabeth Donald: 618-239-2507, @BNDedonald