Apple Approves D.C. Condom App

DC Center's HIV Working Group releases iPhone application to connect users to condoms, testing and other health resources

By John Riley
Published on August 10, 2012, 3:02pm | Comments

Out of condoms and lube? There's an app for that.

Apple Inc., maker of the iPhone, recently approved a new mobile application – commonly called an ''app'' – that uses an interactive GPS map to show users places in the D.C. area where they can find free condoms and lube, as well as find links to various sexual health resources, such as those dealing with HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

Condom Kit App

Condom K!t Finder App

The new application, ''Condom K!T Finder,'' a free download from the iPhone App Store, is the brainchild of Dan O'Neill, a member of The DC Center's HIV Working Group, who in recent years has helped execute the group's TOOLK!T/FUK!T campaign. The best-known initiative of the campaign has been the creation of free safer-sex kits, each containing two condoms and two packets of water-based lubricant, available at a number of local venues.

The application marks local maps with three different types of markers. A blue marker indicates a place where people can obtain condoms distributed by the D.C. Department of Health for free. Green is for bars or clubs where they can find official TOOLK!T/FUK!T kits. Red marks places like local clinics or community organizations where users can obtain information about HIV/STD prevention or seek treatment for sexual-health needs.

The application also includes ''resources'' and ''frequently asked questions'' tabs, where users can be linked with health-information Web pages or find answers to basic health questions like, ''What should I do if the condom breaks or fails?''

O'Neill says he had the idea for a mobile app that would direct people to free condoms and lube, as has been done in other cities, to help people protect themselves from HIV and STDs. But several other cities' ''condom apps'' were, in his words, ''anemic,'' because they did not contain up-to-date information on where to secure condoms, or would direct users to places like drugstores where they would have to pay for condoms.

Condom K!T Finder app

Condom K!T Finder app

In submitting the app for Apple approval, O'Neill says one of his biggest concerns was that Apple would reject it for being too sexually explicit, but those fears did not materialize. Although the app was rejected when O'Neill and his colleagues first submitted their proposal for the new application to Apple, it had nothing to do with being too risqué. Rather, O'Neill says, he received a vaguely worded letter June 28 that suggested the app may have been rejected because it did not have enough entertaining or exciting features, or because it was not designed for a broad enough audience.

So O'Neill and his companions re-tooled the app, which did the trick.

David Mariner, director of The DC Center, D.C.'s LGBT community center, confirmed that volunteers with the HIV Working Group would be writing up detailed descriptions for each site where condoms or TOOLK!T/FUK!T packets are available to enhance the application, available for Windows 7, iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. An Android version awaits approval.

O'Neill also hopes that other cities will follow D.C.'s lead. For instance, he says, Seattle is implementing its own TOOLK!T/FUK!T campaign. Once that program is running, those cities can program their own locations or resources to be added to the application, allowing it to be used by people in other cities. He encourages people in the District to recommend other features that could enhance the app's effectiveness.

''We want to be able to make a better-quality product,'' he says. ''The more people who are able to give us feedback, the better.''