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Last Updated: Friday, 4 June, 2004, 23:01 GMT 00:01 UK
Condom express fights chlamydia
By Lars Bevanger
BBC News Online in Gothenburg

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When the number of chlamydia cases in young Swedish people doubled in one year, health workers decided drastic measures were needed to boost the use of condoms.

The result can be seen on the streets of three Swedish cities from this weekend: condom ambulances.

In Gothenburg, Stockholm and Malmo, several emergency vehicles will be on standby three days a week, waiting for calls from those caught in a promising situation, but without protection.

For only 50 kronas (4) the cars (dubbed the "Cho-San Express" after a well-known make of condoms) will deliver 10 condoms to any address within the city boundaries.

Alarming rise

RFSU, the Swedish health trust and condom makers, came up with the idea because of the alarming rise in sexually transmitted diseases like chlamydia among young people.

It sounds like something you'd do if you were very drunk
Maria Anderson
Carl Osvald, RFSU's marketing director, told News Online only 25% of Swedes between the ages of 16 and 25 use condoms.

"Surveys show that 50% of them wouldn't mind using condoms, but for some reason far fewer actually do."

Mr Osvald said he hoped the condom express would be a new step towards reaching those potential customers.

"We decided to take a humorous approach to this, and hopefully this will be seen as communicating with young people, not lecturing them."

Star director

Along with the emergency vehicles, there will also be a television campaign in the shape of a short film about the dangers of unprotected sex.

In the hope of hitting the target audience, RFSU hired Swedish star music video director Johan Renck, the man behind videos from Kylie Minogue, Madonna and Beyonce, to make the film.

So what do the Swedish youth make of the whole idea? Anders Mathew Wise from Stockholm said the express was not for him.

He said: "I think it's a good PR-stunt, but it won't solve the acute problems. I would not call the condom express if I was in a situation where I needed one. It wouldn't feel right. It would create too much attention."

Maria Anderson, also from Stockholm, agreed: "It sounds like something you'd do if you were very drunk. I don't think I would use it.

"I think the campaign might lead to an increase in the use of condoms, but I don't think the actual condom express cars will contribute to that."

Welcome campaign

At a sexual health clinic in Stockholm, doctors are understandably worried about the rise in cases of chlamydia among young people.

Clinic consultant Christina Rogala welcomed the condom express campaign, and said all initiatives to increase condom use were good.

"We don't know why we've had this increase, it is not hard to get hold of condoms in Sweden, and most young people know about the risks of unprotected sex.

"But many also know of someone who has had chlamydia, and who have been successfully treated for it. They might think it is not a big problem.

"What they might not realise is the very serious danger of female infertility as a result of the disease", Dr Rogala told News Online.

Althought the campaign is targeted at young people, Carl Osvald said anyone was welcome to call the condom express hotline.

"We won't look at someone's age and turn around! When it comes to sex, you're only as old as you feel."

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