Condom Mania

Can carrying condoms get you arrested? It might in three major U.S. cities.

If you're looking to get lucky this weekend, you might want to watch how many Trojans you toss in your purse. In San Francisco, New York, and Washington, D.C., carrying more than two condoms can be considered reason to suspect someone of prostitution. Granted, you'd have to be doing other things to actually get arrested (like appearing to solicit a customer). But given dramatically rising HIV and STD rates, this long-standing police practice is now making waves among advocates for sex workers, who say it can make prostitutes less likely to practice safe sex.

Even more ironic, in New York, the condoms confiscated from arrested prostitutes are often the official condoms given out by the city's Department of Public Health, according to the Urban Justice Center, which provides legal advocacy for sex workers. The group is currently lobbying for passage of a state law that would prevent police from being able to use condoms as a factor in prostitution arrests and prosecution. Ideally, say those in the field, the law would serve as a model for other cities—and would help recast condoms as evidence of responsibility, not criminal activity.