In the hope that better access translates to more use, Washington is distributing the FC2 female condom citywide. The District has one of the country's highest HIV infection rates: A 2009 study found roughly 3 percent of residents age 12 and older were HIV-positive.
Five community groups are handing out 500,000 FC2 condoms during instruction sessions at beauty salons, barber shops, churches, and restaurants. The District also is running ads online and on about a third of the city's bus fleet. The ads, which show a cuddling couple, a female condom package, and the tagline "Get turned on to it," will run for three months and return next spring. "The female condom with pleasure points for her and him to tease, please and protect. Go on, give it a try," the copy suggests.
Health advocates note the female condom is as effective as the male condom in preventing HIV, STDs, and pregnancy. It also can be inserted up to eight hours prior to sex. Most importantly, it gives women control over whether protection is used. "It's something they themselves can initiate and they themselves have control over," said Dr. Nnemdi Kamanu Elias of the district's health department.
The CVS chain is selling FC2 condoms in all its District drug stores, making Washington the only place where people can get them outside a health clinic or community group.
"Everybody is doing a full-court press," said Mary Ann Leper, who is leading the US introduction of the FC2 condom for its manufacturer, Female Health Co. of Chicago.
Washington is not the first city to distribute female condoms, but its campaign is the most broadly based. New York City has distributed female condoms since 1998; last year, community groups there handed out 930,000.
Back to other news for August 2010
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.