Dallas County Judge Jim Foster said this week that the agenda for the Commissioners Court’s Jan. 13 meeting includes a briefing by Zach Thompson, director of the county’s Department of Health and Human Services, on the status of the HIV/AIDS infection rate in the county and the effect of a 13-year-old ban on the distribution of free condoms by county health workers on those statistics.
Even though the state health department provides free condoms to counties to distribute, health workers in Dallas County have been prohibited from handing out the condoms anywhere but in the county’s clinic building since 1995. That’s when commissioners voted to ban distribution of free condoms and needle sterilization kits because, they said, doing so encouraged "illegal and immoral" acts such as IV drug use and homosexual sex.
That vote was taken before the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Texas sodomy law, outlawing consensual sexual contact between adults of the same gender, was unconstitutional.
County Commissioner John Wiley Price, who voted against the ban in 1995, re-opened the debate at a recent court meeting, saying he was concerned about the disproportionately high rate of HIV infections among African-Americans and other minorities. Foster, who is gay, said he also supports ending the ban.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 2, 2009.