Our nation’s capitol has become the first city in the US to distribute female condoms for free.
While many cities have given out male condoms for free to individuals in an attempt to curb STDs and promote sexual health, DC is the first to distribute female condoms for free. The campaign is part of a larger project to promote safe sex and fight against the city’s high HIV and AIDS rates. Salons, corner stores and high schools will distribute the 500,000 contraceptives to individuals. Certain neighborhoods will be targeted, namely wards that have been shown to involve high rates of unsafe sex and high rates of infection. These wards 1, 2, 3, 6 and 7 are populated by large numbers of African American heterosexuals, according to the Washington Post. A largely black city, DC’s stats suggest that many African Americans have less access to sexual health resources and sexual health education, thus making the community more susceptible to infection, STIs and HIV.
The distribution of female condoms is a step towards advocating for safe sexual practices – relying on male condom distribution alone ignores the opportunity for women to protect themselves against HIV and STIs through female condoms. The hope is that by having access to female and male condoms, more people will utilize these contraceptives and lower rates of HIV and AIDS, infections that are particiularly prominent among the black community. Research has shown that HIV/AIDS is the leading cause of death among black women between 25 and 34.
The project has been made possible through a half a million dollar grant from the MAC AIDS Fund, which provides money for various city programs including needle exchange campaigns throughout DC. The grant enabled the city to purchase condoms for wholesale prices and distribute them throughout various organizations.
This seems like a step in the right direction – at-risk populations, particularly poor women of color and black women, need to have more resources to take care of their bodies. Studies have shed light on the unsafe sex practices that are prevalent among many DC communities. Female condoms encourage women to use protection even if their sexual partners refuse to use male condoms.
The female condom only recently began selling in the US, first at CVS – pharmacies in DC sell female condoms next to male condoms. Spokespersons for the pharmacy have noted that sales for the female condom have been slow – suggesting that more awareness must be raised about its use and its effectiveness. By educating communities about a wide array of contraceptives, cities will have a better chance of curbing STIs.