FROM THE ARCHIVES: Aztec Press distributes condoms in 1988

BY SIERRA J. RUSSELL

wPg07-Archive cartoonIn early issues of the Aztec Press, readers were more likely to see an illustration of a topless woman than an article about contraception.

Gradually, however, safe-sex awareness emerged.

In a 1975 article, a county health educator said venereal diseases do not always have noticeable symptoms, allowing them to spread from one unsuspecting host to the next.

Much like today, one of the most frightening exams for a student to face took place at a doctor’s office. Fear and procrastination often resulted in the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

Toni Benson, then coordinator for a STD hotline, said the hotline tried to “share basic health information, insights and provide people with possible alternatives and possible consequences of their behavior.”

In the ‘80s, the outbreak of AIDS ignited increasing concern about sexual precautions.

National Condom Week, which originated at the University of California- Berkeley in 1978, gained popularity at college campuses across the nation.

At Tulane University in Louisiana, “safe sex kits” were distributed in lunch bags with “condom sense” printed on the outside.

Rev. Fred Tondalo, head of a Florida AIDS center, asked hotels to provide condoms to students checking in for spring break.

As part of the awareness effort, Pima Community College permitted the distribution of 6,000 condoms in 1988. The condoms were provided by the Pima County Health Department and distributed by the Aztec Press.

The prophylactics were included in each copy of the December issue. Although some recipients were offended, many students and faculty expressed appreciation and support.

A 1991 spring issue covered a “condom art” contest. Students were encouraged to create flowers and other arrangements from condoms provided by the Tucson AIDS Project and the Pima County Health Department.

El Rio Health Center and Planned Parenthood sponsored the 1992 National Condom Week, which began on Valentine’s Day. Representatives on campus handed out free condoms, lubricants and informational pamphlets.

Planned Parenthood representative Claudia Vanatta Skocpol said a frequently asked question dealt with lubricants. She encouraged the use of water-based lubricants rather than oil-based ones such as Vaseline, which can cause a condom to break.

Magdalena Velasco, an El Rio volunteer, stressed the importance of knowing how to properly use protection.

“We have information on how to use the condom, which is more important than the condom itself,” Velasco said.

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