Mathematical modeling suggests a program to distribute condoms in a jail for men who have sex with men (MSM) will slow the spread of HIV and also save money in the long run. Publishing their findings in AIDS Behavior, researchers studied a program in which a private, not-for-profit organization, the Center for Health Justice, distributes one condom a week to interested inmates in the Los Angeles County Men’s Central Jail’s segregated housing for MSM.

In order to make estimates about how the condom program affects HIV incidence rates, the investigators compared the findings of a 2007 survey of the MSM jail population to another population of inmates who shared similar characteristics. They then estimated that condom distribution prevented one in four new HIV infections transmitted in jail. Without the condom program, the investigators anticipate an average of 0.8 new infections monthly among a group of 69 HIV-negative, sexually active inmates. But when the one condom a week is provided, new weekly infections should drop to 0.6.

The researchers also found that the anticipated future medical costs saved from preventing new HIV infections outweigh the program costs. Providing more than one condom per week, they speculate, could increase the program’s impact, both in terms of disease prevention and cost savings.

To read the study, click here.