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Cambridge Ordinance Installs Condom Vending Machines To Curb AIDS Rate

December 17, 1990

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) _ Clifford’s Green Street Grill on Monday became the first city restaurant to comply with an ordinance ordering all hotels, motels, restaurants and bars to install condom vending machines.

John Clifford’s establishment, in Central Square between Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was a year early in complying with the ordinance.

″We’ve had customers come in looking for them,″ said owner John Clifford, explaining why he installed the condom machines.

″We are not going to be condom cops, but we are encouraging people to take the law seriously and put in machines,″ said Jennifer Wolfrum, community health coordinator for the city, which made made a law out of a recommendation to cities by the state Department of Public Health.

As of Dec. 1, Cambridge, a multicultured and racially diverse city of about 100,000 people, had 103 documented AIDS cases, Wolfrum said. She said from 1,000 to 3,000 Cambridge residents are infected with the HIV virus, which causes AIDS.

City officials and AIDS activists said the program may be the only one of its kind in the nation. Jersey City, N.J., tried to pass a similar ordinance a few years ago, but the measure was tabled after it met with strong opposition.

The City Council adopted the ordinance on Nov. 5 after several hours of debate and public hearings on the issue. The program was brought before the council by the Cambridge AIDS Task Force, which began two years ago to address the city’s growing problem with the deadly disease.

″It was not a unanimous vote. But in the long run we did the right thing,″ said City Councilor John Myers.

All public places have until Dec. 31, 1991, to comply with the ordinance.

The Cambridge AIDS Task Force is printing stickers to be placed on the machines that will warn users about AIDS and provide telephone numbers for those seeking counseling and information. The warnings will be in English, Haitian Creole, Spanish and Portuguese, said Wolfrum.

Citing issues of religious and moral values raised during public hearings, the city is allowing a way out for those at odds with the measure. Business owners seeking exemption must file a written request for immunity from the ordinance, but no explanation is necessary, Wolfrum said.

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