Washington DC to distribute female condoms free
Last Updated: Sunday, March 07, 2010, 15:35
Washington: Washington DC is going to become the first city in the US to distribute female condoms free in a bid to control the District's spiralling epidemic of HIV and AIDS.

According to city officials, the distribution of free women contraceptives could begin within the next three weeks in the areas where a recent study has shown that large numbers of African American heterosexuals engage in risky sexual behaviour that could easily lead to infection.

Under this project, about 500,000 condoms will be made available in beauty salons, convenience stores and high schools in parts of the city with high HIV rates, The Washington Post reported.

"The move is an official acknowledgement of the futility of relying solely on the use of male condoms, which have been distributed citywide for nearly a decade, to stem the District's epidemic of HIV and AIDS," the newspaper said.

It also quoted officials as saying that they are turning to female condoms "to give women more power to protect themselves from HIV and sexually transmitted diseases when their partners refuse to use protection".

Shannon Hader, Director of the city's HIV/AIDS Administration, said: "Anywhere male condoms are available, female condoms will be available."

"We're not saying that if you're a school in this area, you can't get female condoms. We're trying to make every effort count to build on what already exists... to expand options rather than limit them."

According to the report, HIV/AIDS infection is the leading cause of death for black women 25-34 nationwide. A 2008 report showed the Washington District's HIV/AIDS rate at 3 per cent, or about 15,100 adults, a major epidemic.

Male condoms have long been handed out but infection rates remain high among Washington's black residents. Female condoms have been on sale since 1993, but take-up has been slow as it was judged too expensive for US customers.

Now, a new version, which is being used in countries including South Africa, Brazil and Indonesia, will be distributed in Washington DC and offered for sale in pharmacies alongside male condoms, the report added.


First Published: Sunday, March 07, 2010, 15:35

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