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
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.