'Condom christmas tree' faces show snub

SEXUAL health campaigners have criticised organisers of a charity Christmas tree festival after their NHS-backed packs of condoms were removed from show.

Laurence Cawley

SEXUAL health campaigners have criticised organisers of a charity Christmas tree festival after their NHS-backed packs of condoms were removed from show.

More than 50 trees have been set up at St Peter's Church in Sudbury, with the event raising money for charitable causes including the fight against domestic violence.

Exhibitors, who pay £12 each, can decorate their trees to raise awareness of their organisation.


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But one of the displays for The Fightback Trust, which helps those affected by HIV and AIDS, is now at the centre of a dispute between organisers and sexual health campaigners.

Organisers decided to remove its packs - which included condoms - after a group of under-fives from a nursery started helping themselves.

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But the decision has left the couple who dressed the tree with sealed condoms in gold wrappers, needleless syringes and empty medication boxes angry and bemused.

They claim children would not have been able to open the packs, supplied by NHS Suffolk, and said the packaging would not have given children a clue as to what was inside.

As well as the free packs, the display had signs about the rise of HIV in East Anglia and a message that said 'Have a safe Christmas'.

Scott, one of the tree designers and whose partner has been HIV positive for 24 years, said they were told it had been removed and were barred from “having something like that” because of young children.

“I was furious,” he said. “They are the types of things you will find in the aisle at Tesco or Boots.”

He said their campaign to promote safe sex could prevent the spread of sexually transmitted disease and possibly save lives.

But Graeme Garden, whose wife Joan is managing the fair, said they decided to remove the box of condoms from the display after children under the age of five started helping themselves.

He said although no complaint had been made, the couple who decorated The Fightback Trust tree were welcome to display the condom packs during the evenings when the majority of visitors were adults.

“We had groups of youngsters under five from a local nursery and they got hold of the fact they could take them away - it seemed totally inappropriate.

“We tried to avoid making an issue about it. We removed the offending box.”

Valerie Goodchild, a former mayoress of Sudbury, said: “The organisers were absolutely right to remove the box of condoms displayed beneath their tree.

“Young children, who attend the festival in their hundreds, either with schools, nursery groups or parents, would not be able to distinguish between a brightly wrapped condom and a sweet.”

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