ST. LOUIS — Is the city of St. Louis spending taxpayer money on condoms and sex toys?
It's a question we got from a viewer last month after seeing a call for bids on the city's website.
The 5 On Your Side Verify team found the answer.
When it comes to sex, St. Louis has a bad reputation.
"St. Louis has some of the highest numbers when it comes to HIV and STI's," said Franda Thomas, Health Services Manager with the City of St. Louis.
Thomas says that's one reason the city is buying more than 70,000 condoms a year and then just giving them away. Thomas runs that effort.
"The thought behind is that if condoms are accessible in the community, it increases the likelihood they will use them. And by using them, it will decrease the number of HIV and STI cases in the community," said Thomas.
But it's not just condoms, there are dental dams and other items like lube, novelty sex keychains and even a vibrating ring.
So who's footing the bill for all of this?
Missouri state government and the federal Center for Disease Control.
"It didn't start with the city of St. Louis, it's a CDC approved intervention that focuses on decreasing HIV and STI transmission.
So we can Verify. Taxpayers are paying for this program.
So we had to ask about some of the other items the city is buying with that money, like flavored lube, novelty keychains and those vibrating rings.
"These are like novelty items and they serve a purpose. The purpose is to get people talking. There is a need for lube, these are all things associated with having sex," said Thomas.
and you can find all of this free sex stuff at more than 120 locations around the city
Business owners who participate say there's a huge need for contraceptives in their neighborhoods
"People come in and ask 'Hey ya'll got some more of those condoms?' So yeah they're in high demand," said Cordell Edwards, owner of Goal Line Barber & Beauty Salon.
The city usually spends about $78,000 a year on condoms and related supplies.
For a full list of where they're available, and where you can access other services like HIV/STD testing, visit STLCONDOMS.com.
A city Health Department Spokesperson tells us the STI/HIV Prevention Grant award since 2014 has been $815,000 annually.
According to the city, the funding is used to support several agencies for HIV Prevention efforts, including Project Ark (the SPOT), Williams and Associates, St. Louis Efforts for AIDS. The services they provide with the funds include HIV/STI testing, educational outreach, condom distribution and other CDC approved intervention methods.