Free Female Condoms Are New Tool in Washington, D.C.'s Battle Against HIV/AIDS
March 11, 2010
Under a program rolling out in the next three weeks, Washington will become the first city in the United States to distribute free female condoms. Officials said the effort will target sections of wards 1, 2, 3, 6, and 7 where research indicates many African-American heterosexuals engage in risky sexual behavior.
"Anywhere male condoms are available, female condoms will be available," said Shannon Hader, director of the D.C. HIV/AIDS Administration (DCHAA). Male condoms have been distributed across the city for a decade. A 2008 report indicated that 3 percent of Washington residents are HIV-positive, though Hader and other officials believe the real prevalence rate is closer to 5 percent.
The initiative, which will make 500,000 female condoms available in beauty salons, convenience stores, and high schools, is funded through a $500,000 grant from the MAC AIDS Fund. A subsidiary of MAC Cosmetics, the fund already contributes to other District programs, including two needle exchanges.
Hader pointed out several troubling facts from the city's "HIV Heterosexual Behavior Study." In that report, 75 percent of respondents said they were in a committed relationship. However, 45 percent admitted to sex outside the relationship, and 46 percent believed their partner was not being faithful. More than 70 percent reported not using condoms, and only 60 percent had been tested for HIV.
Hader said workers with community organizations are learning how to demonstrate the proper use of the female condom.
The watchdog group D.C. Appleseed has criticized DCHAA in the past, but Executive Director Walter Smith praised the new initiative. "On this one, they're cutting edge. The very fact that they're doing this says to women of the city that this is important to you. This is important to your families. Get with the program."
03.06.2010; Darryl Fears
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