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SOS: Free the Condoms March 4, 2010

Posted by Marquita Campbell in Health Communications & Marketing, Healthcare, Prevention, Uncategorized.
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Practicing safe sex using condoms is vital to not only decreasing the new cases of HIV infection in DC but also decreasing the number of sexually transmitted infections and unintended pregnancies. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), latex condoms, when used consistently and correctly, are highly effective in preventing the sexual transmission of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. However, despite their effectiveness, condoms are not always accessible to the people who are most at risk such as teenagers or individuals who live in low-income neighborhoods and/or communities of color.

 In April 2006, the Washington Post published an article titled “Prophylactic Measures” that highlighted the inaccessibility of condoms in CVS stores” within these neighborhoods in DC. “At the end of 2007, DC Department of Health (see page 18) released a report that there were a total of 15,120 people living with HIV/AIDS in the District, accounting for about 3% of all District residents.”In that same report, it was noted that the leading modes of transmission of HIV/AIDS in DC are through men who have sex with men and heterosexual contact, 37% and 28% respectively.

Man Overboard

While there are many dimensions to decreasing the burden of HIV/AIDS in DC, one component to prevention is eliminating barriers. In this scenario, eliminating barriers involves making sure condoms are both available and accessible.

  • Availability refers to condoms being in stock or in inventory.
  • Accessibility refers to the ease by which condoms are easily obtained. For instance, some condoms are in locked cases that require the use of a store clerk to unlock. In this example, limited accessibility increases the probability that customers may feel embarrassed to purchase condoms if they are “locked.”

Where are the life guards?

So, who are the key players in making sure condoms are available and accessible?  While we all are accountable for the public health of our communities, it is CVS’s national headquarters that can play a vital role in exercising good public policy while being a good corporate citizen. Consequently, last year CVS wrote a letter to the DC City Council stating they would no longer make condoms inaccessible. On behalf of the Council, graduate students at George Washington University are evaluating the compliance of CVS policies. Stay tuned for the results of this evaluation…

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