Image from the film: Advocating in Albany, (No Condoms as Evidence), The Red Umbrella Project

For three years Visual AIDS has been distributing PLAY SMART. In little plastic bags we include two condoms, lube, and artist commissioned trading cards with safer sex information that include self-care tips, information about the artists, and links to PEP411.

What we may also want to included is a warning for queer and trans youth of color:

These condoms might get you arrested.

Well known by queer and trans youth of color, the NYPD routinely profiles youth based on how they look, and then use condoms that the youth may have in their pockets or bags, to bring them in for questioning or arrest. This is known as “Condoms As Evidence”. And it is wrong.

The police use the condoms as an excuse to harass and detain youth under the pretense they were (possibly) engaged in sex work. It is an injustice. Not only are youth being profiled, they are being punished for taking steps to take care of themselves. The tools being provided to you youth to help prevent STIs, unwanted pregnancies and HIV, are being used as weapons against them.

“Condoms are supposed to protect us, not turn us into criminals,” says Yhatzine LaFountain, a member of immigrant rights group Make the Road New York, who has experienced how police profile transgender women like her.

"The most at risk populations for HIV in NYC are scared and sometimes do not carry condoms because of the NYPD's practice of citing condoms as evidence in prostitution related offenses "says Mitchyll Mora, an organizer with Streetwise and Safe (SAS). He was visiting the Visual AIDS office last week to help us brainstorm what we can do for PLAY SMART, IV, to ensure that condoms are not used against those who carry them, especially queer and trans youth of color.

While at the Visual AIDS office, Mora told us about the success of the No Condoms as Evidence Bill. On June 20th, 2013, the New York State Assembly passed A2736, known as the “No Condoms as Evidence” bill, sponsored by Queens Assembly Member Barbara Clark. The passing of the bill means it is one step closer to being voted on by the New York State Senate. The New York State Bill S1379/A2736 would stop police and prosecutors from using possession of condoms as evidence of prostitution.

“Action by the New York State Assembly brings us one step closer to making history as the first state in the country to enact legislation that prohibits police and prosecutors from confiscating and introducing condoms as evidence of intent to engage in prostitution related offenses,” said Andrea Ritchie, representing the No Condoms as Evidence Coalition, 70+ organizations who worked on the Assembly action.

We support the No Condoms as Evidence Coalition and are proud to be working with SAS to ensure our next round of PLAY SMART will be better equipped to protect trans and queer youth of color. To learn more visit: