In the U.K., Taxi Drivers May Give Out Condoms

SOUTHAMPTON, England – Public health experts are recommending that taxi drivers and club owners provide free condoms to patrons in an effort to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.

The calls for free condom distribution come in the wake of a recent report by researchers at the University of Southampton that links binge drinking with unsafe sexual practices.

A survey of 520 people seeking care at sexual health clinics reveled that 76 percent claimed to have had unprotected sex after drinking alcoholic beverages.

According to the International Journal of STD and AIDS, infected persons on average drank 40 percent more than their 'clean" counterparts.

Less than 20 percent of those surveyed reported that they always engaged in safe sex with new partners.

Critics of the condom giveaway cite the need for abstinence and education efforts that tell folks to "just say no," while advocates cite the continued rise in sexual infections, with the largest increases over the past few years hitting the 16-to-24 year old age group.

They back this up with the following statistic: 376,508 cases were reported in England in 2006, a 2 percent increase over the previous year.

"The link between sexual risk and drinking too much alcohol is not the most original idea in the world, but we now have clear scientific evidence of the relationship," Linda Tucker, one of the report's authors, said. "The government needs to reflect this link both in their sexual health and alcohol strategy — which at present seems not to link alcohol and sexual risk behavior."

"The young people interviewed in this study frequently said that better access to condoms at the time and place they were needed would have enabled them to practice safer sex," said Professor Wallace Dinsmore, an editor for the International Journal of STD and AIDS. "Young people can get free condoms from their GPs, family planning and GU [sexual health] clinics but it might make more sense to give condoms away in pubs, clubs and taxis."

"Politicians need to tackle the issue of cheap booze and to have properly funded early intervention and treatment programs in place," Tucker said.

Tackling sexual health issues associated with binge drinking was a "priority issue" according to a Health Department spokesperson.