Sabrina Arancibia can’t say whether Empath Partners in Care (EPIC) is the largest source of free condoms in the Tampa Bay area. But if EPIC trails another community health organization, it’s not for lack of effort.
Arancibia, an EPIC Prevention and Outreach Specialist, says her organization has little trouble reaching its annual goal of distributing 18,000 free condoms.
“If someone sees us, they’ll be able to get condoms,” Arancibia said.
Condoms are available at each of the five EPIC locations, including at EPIC Sexual Health Centers in Tampa (4703 N. Florida Ave.) and St. Petersburg (300 49th St. S.). EPIC staff pass out free condom packs with business cards and EPIC information at every community event they attend. They also do “Condom Walks” on weekend nights in downtown Ybor City, striking up conversations with young people about sexual health while they hand out free condoms.
As far as the rest of the United States is concerned, February 14-21 is National Condom Week. But for EPIC, every week is condom week.
“Really our goal is to get as many condoms out there as possible so people don’t have an excuse,” Arancibia said. “We know condoms can be expensive. We have a whole bunch of different brands and styles in our displays. People can take as many as they’d like.”
EPIC, a member of Empath Health, works to improve the lives of Tampa Bay area residents by addressing the social determinants of health. EPIC stocks internal and external condoms, latex and non-latex types and most brands. Arancibia said the brand One is especially popular because of its colorful and thought-provoking wrapper designs.
Arancibia, a 23-year-old Florida native who graduated with a public health degree from University of South Florida, has worked for EPIC since July 2022. She enjoys sharing her knowledge with young people and underserved communities.
“Because we’re peers, they are more comfortable talking about what they’ve done and what they could do better. I like to have those conversations,” she said.
Prevention and education are two pillars of EPIC’s sexual health initiatives. Arancibia says EPIC wants to make sure people know that beyond birth control using condoms is the best method to prevent the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
“No other method protects against STIs,” Arancibia said. “So even if pregnancy is not a concern for someone, it’s really important to consider using condoms to protect themselves against chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis and HIV.”
Arancibia encourages people to take charge of their sexual health by insisting partners use a condom. Plus, she says, sex can be more enjoyable when stress and uncertainty are removed.
EPIC also shares information about the proper use and storage of condoms. Arancibia says she reminds clients that condoms should not be stored in a wallet or car because heat and friction can decrease condoms’ effectiveness. Also, condoms should not be reused. A condom should discarded if not properly applied.
For more information about EPIC, visit MyEpic.org or call (727) 328-3260 in Pinellas or (813) 237-3066 in Hillsborough.