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Whittier College installs free condom dispensers in residence halls

StudentsHIV - AIDSU.S. Centers for Disease Control and PreventionSexually Transmitted DiseasesUC RiversideUCLA

Students at Whittier College will have greater access to free condoms in residence halls after officials install 15 dispensers -- the largest number for any one campus under a campaign to promote safe sex.

The dispensers at the liberal arts college of roughly 1,700 students in east Los Angeles County will hold about 40,000 condoms labeled "Love" and "Icon," organizers said, to be provided by Condom Nation, a mobile public health campaign sponsored by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. 

While installing condom dispensers on campuses is nothing new -- similar machines have been set up at UCLA, UC Riverside and other colleges -- it marks the first time so many have been distributed to any one school, according to Lori Mizuno, director of public health for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation.

"This was an unusual level of support because Whittier is such a small school," Mizuno said. 

The dispensers -- which can cost up to $200 each -- were designated for the campus thanks in part to efforts by 20-year-old Bobbi Marie Mendoza, a junior and sociology major, to give students a less embarrassing alternative to asking resident advisers for condoms late at night.

"Sex is very personal, so this will be less embarrassing and no shame to it," she said.

It also doesn't help the college's student health and wellness center is only open Monday through Friday. 

"Those aren't ideal hours," Mendoza said.

Mizuno, though, noted the dispensers were part of a larger safe-sex and wellness campaign through the foundation. Still, Mendoza said she wanted to bring "24-hour access to protection" on campus.

Organizers plan to finish installing the dispensers in the coming days.

Currently, nearly half the 20 million reported sexually transmitted diseases affect people ages 15 to 24, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That figure can't be ignored given that young adults are sexually active, said Tony Marshall, program manager for Condom Nation. 

Marshall added his organization will support Whittier College's safe-sex effort by keeping condom dispensers filled.  

"We never want them to run out," he said. "The college is making it easier for students to be safe. It's awareness." 

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alicia.banks@latimes.com

Twitter: @AliciaDotBanks

 

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