Searching for a rubber

Some bathhouses are ignoring safer sex

Three Toronto bathhouses are falling well short of modern HIV-prevention safeguards, Xtra’s spot-check on the city’s eight tubs reveals.

The Oak-Leaf Steam Bath – Toronto’s oldest bathhouse – was

distributing condoms 15 months past expiration. And the St Marc Spa admits that it’s not properly disposing of dirty needles left behind by IV-drug users.

Since the late eighties, bathhouses have routinely provided condoms

to customers when issuing towels and keys. Most also displayed condoms in large candy containers to encourage safer sex.

But Xtra’s survey reveals that only The Barracks, The Club, The

Spa on Maitland, and the newly-opened Spa Excess currently make latex available at different points of their respective venues.

“We make sure people don’t have to ask,” says Excess supervisor

Randy McLinden, noting that the AIDS Committee Of Toronto also distributes race wear on Fridays and Saturdays.

“We have one container at the end of the bar, another at the

entrance, and we give condoms to customers as you enter,” McLinden says. “If they want more, they can take more.”

The posh Carlton St bath also supplies towels embroidered with

smart pockets, allowing patrons to tote protection from station to station.

Although St Marc’s Spa and The Cellar don’t sprinkle latex around

their corridors, each customer is handed freebies when entering and more are available for the asking.

But that’s not how it always works.

The availability of condoms is becoming more controversial in light of recent reports suggesting that more men are riding bareback.

While all Toronto baths were able to provide condoms when pressed, both westend tubs – Oak-Leaf Steam Bath and Central Spa – failed to provide protection as part of the admission routine.

Central was able to produce a good condom upon request. But Oak-Leaf safes could hardly be considered safe. .

“I hope I’ve got some,” the Oak-Leaf clerk replied after being asked for condoms.

A brief search ensued, then he reappeared and said, “How about three?”

Three would have been thoughtful, except for the fact that two of

the condoms – both Kama Sutra brand – carried expiration dates of January ’98.

Following Xtra’s visit, Oak-Leaf was asked whether the tub supplies

condoms to customers as part of the admission routine. The answer: “Not really.”

When told that expired condoms had been given out at Oak-Leaf, the manager, who would only identify himself as Ivan, said he didn’t think it was up to his staff to maintain quality control standards on free condoms.

“I never look at them,” he said.


Read More About:
Sexual Health, Health, Toronto, HIV/AIDS, Sex

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