Washington, D.C. will be the first city in the U.S. to give away free female condoms in an effort to give women greater power in the fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS. Starting in mid-March, some 500,000 female condoms will be available through beauty salons, convenience stores and high schools in areas with high HIV/AIDS rates.
The project is viewed as recognition of the failure of a ten year program which encouraged male partners to use condoms. Backers say it was developed to give women greater power in dealing with partners who refuse to use protection.
HIV/AIDS infection is the leading cause of death for black women ages 25 to 34 nationwide. In Washington, D.C. the HIV/AIDS rate is 3 percent, or about 15,000 adults, which is considered epidemic proportions. Officials plan female condom distribution in areas where they say studies show large numbers of African American heterosexuals engage in risky sexual behavior.
Women worldwide have indirectly made the $500,000 project possible. Funding is through a grant from the MAC AIDS Fund, a subsidiary of MAC Cosmetics, which has raised millions of dollars through the sale of lipsticks dedicated to this cause.
A second generation female condom, the FC2, will be distributed. Female condoms were first approved by the FDA for U.S. use in 1993 and have been available in Europe for nearly 20 years.
In addition to the free condoms, CVS Pharmacies have agreed to stock women’s condoms next to male condoms in all of their Washington, D.C. stores. A female condom three-pack is $6.50 while a package of three male condoms sells for about $5 to $7.
While more men than women have HIV, women are catching up. If new HIV infections continue at their current rate worldwide, women with HIV may soon outnumber men with HIV, according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
EmpowHER HIV/AIDS Resource Page: http://www.empowher.com/media/reference/acquired-immunodeficiency-syndrome-and-human-immunodeficiency-virus#definition
HIV/AIDS Advocacy Sheet: http://www.empowher.com/news/herarticle/2010/03/02/hivaids-advocacy-sheet