Background: Less than a third of sexually active college students report “always” using a condom during intercourse. Students identify several barriers to consistent condom use including embarrassment, awkwardness, stigma, cost, and privacy concerns. In January of 2013, Boston University Wellness & Prevention Services launched a novel condom distribution program called ‘The Condom Fairy Program’ to address these barriers, raise awareness about STI testing, and encourage enthusiastic consent. Our program design aligns with CDC recommendations for effective structural-level condom distribution programs and is the first of its kind on college campuses.
Methods: Students complete an online request form for free male or female condoms, oral dams, and personal lubricant at their convenience. Orders filled by trained interns and peer educators are delivered to students’ on-campus mailboxes in discrete packaging via the University’s mail services. Tailored information about STI-risk, testing resources, and consensual sex are also included in the package. At the end of each semester, participating students are asked to complete a web-based evaluation.
Results: Over 2,200 packages were delivered from January-November of 2013. Evaluation results showed that 70% of students who requested condoms had used them, 75% were more comfortable getting supplies from the Condom Fairy than through traditional outlets, and 70% felt more likely to practice safer sex because of the program. The program also provides critical access to female condoms and oral dams, which over 60% of students would not have acquired without the Condom Fairy. Educational materials included in the packages also led to STI testing and dialogue about consent among students.
Conclusions: The Condom Fairy program effectively addresses several barriers to condom use among college students and provides a unique opportunity to communicate important health promotion messages. Its structural-level design and popularity also encourage the institutionalization of a social norm that promotes sexually responsible decisions.