A condom works the same no matter what type of packaging it has -- but it's useless if it's left in a drawer.

In an unconventional attempt to battle the high rate of sexually transmitted diseases in Philadelphia, the city is running a condom-wrapper design contest.

The winning design will appear on a half-million free condoms the city will distribute.

Jazzing up the packaging is more than just a matter of aesthetics. It's about starting a conversation about safe sex, and then practicing it.

Philadelphia's Health Commissioner Donald Schwarz said artists looking for some exposure have until Jan. 14 to submit positive and creative ideas.

“We hope that by making the design more Philadelphia-specific, we will reawaken people's interest in condoms and their awareness in condoms, particularly young people,” he said. “We know that New York did this just a little while ago and it drew a lot of interest to the health department and to the campaign.”

Every year, the city hands out 1 million free condoms, yet the city's STD rates are high. In fact, the syphilis rate is 40 times higher in Philadelphia than in the rest of the state.

For nearly 15 years, Christopher Coleman of the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing has been working with HIV education. He said the contest may remove some of the stigma that remains associated with condoms.

“This should become a staple for everything, particularly if they are sexually active," he said. "I think what [the city] is trying to do is to make them not only aesthetically attractive on the outside, but to get folks excited about going and buying them.”

The Centers for Disease Control is funding the $10,000 cost of the custom wrappers. The winner will receive a small cash prize. The winning design will be chosen by online voters.