Sex and health : For New York City dwellers, this mobile app could save your sex life
The mobile app craze is growing into every facet of our lives. There are apps for learning new recipes, catching up on the news, turning your iPhone into a light saber and even popping virtual bubble wrap, just to name a few. But how about an app that helps you find the nearest free condoms? If you live in New York City and have a smartphone, you’re in luck: There’s an app for that.
‘NYC Condom Finder,’ available from the Android Market or the Apple Store, uses GPS to identify the user’s location and find the nearest distributor of free condoms. According to a CNN article, New York City’s Health Department has been providing free condoms to its residents since 1971,and people can now get the rubbers they need from more than 3,000 locations.
The New York City Health Department may have picked a good avenue to push its free condoms to the masses when it chose to make an iPhone-compatible app. In 2010, AT&T activated 15.2 million iPhones on its network, and Verizon officials said their iPhone sales have surpassed those of its previous smartphone debuts, according to a Feb. 9 New York Times article.
And the iPhone isn’t the only thing with high numbers. According to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene website, there were 108,886 people living with HIV in the city as of 2009. Considering even more people are infected with other sexually transmitted diseases and surprised by unwanted pregnancies, a resource for finding the nearest free condom dispensary can’t be a horrible idea.
But just because it’s not a bad idea doesn’t make it a flawless one. In theory, the promotion of safe sex through the creation of this app is admirable. Unfortunately, the time it takes to load the app, map out your trip to the nearest free condom provider (hope they’re open!), get some condoms and pick up where you left off seems like the perfect formula for a mood killer.
The inconvenience and hormone-halting potential of the app is petty compared to the inequalities illuminated by its creation. If someone can afford to pay the price of a smartphone, he or she can afford a box of Trojans.
I don’t dislike the creation of this app. After all, people could find themselves in need of a condom, no matter what their socioeconomic status is. But I hope the New York City Health Department’s next move is the creation of more opportunities for free condom promotion for the city’s less fortunate. Out of the 8,391,881 people the U.S. Census Bureau counted in New York City in 2009, almost 18 percent of them are living in poverty. These 1.5 million people presumably can’t access the condom app as easily and therefore cannot find where the nearest free condoms are in the palm of their hands.
Until unexpected teen pregnancies and STDs are things of the past, there’s always more that can be done to promote safe sex. Though the concept of the Big Apple’s condom app isn’t perfect, I applaud New York City’s Health Department in its cutting-edge push of condom use. I hope Syracuse can look to its eastward neighbor as inspiration for creating more venues for free condoms in our own neighborhoods.
Alicia Smith is a graduate student in the magazine, newspaper and online journalism program at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. Her column appears every Thursday, and she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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