D.C. Public Health Officials Say CVS Condom Lock-Up Could Create Barrier to Access, Discourage Use
Some public health officials in Washington, D.C., are concerned that stores such as CVS -- which often place condoms behind locked cabinets -- might discourage condom use by acting as a barrier to access, the Washington Post reports. According to an informal survey, 22 of the 50 CVS stores in Washington, D.C., place their condoms in locked cabinets and require customers wishing to purchase them to call an employee for assistance, the Post reports. "Most of those stores are in less affluent areas where the incidence of HIV/AIDS, other sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancy -- all preventable with condoms -- are highest," the Post reports (Redfearn, Washington Post, 4/11). The rate of new AIDS cases reported each year in the District of Columbia is 10 times the national average, and an estimated one in 50 of the district's 500,000 residents is living with AIDS and one in 20 is HIV-positive (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/8). "Numerous barriers (to contraception) already exist -- particularly for minority populations," Nestor Rocha, director of the Disease Prevention and Health Promotion division of the Whitman-Walker Clinic, said. He added, "To add that someone has to ask for [condoms] out loud in front of other customers is simply making it so that people who could benefit from the use of condoms will not." CVS spokesperson Mike DeAngelis said that condoms are locked up to avoid theft, not to restrict access. Heather Boonstra, a policy analyst for the Guttmacher Institute, said the locking up of condoms is "an economic thing," adding, "It goes back to prejudice and fear. In those areas of the city that are poor, stores fear that people are going to steal the product -- whether they actually do or not." Citizens for Community Values, a group that supports abstinence to prevent sexually transmitted infections and unplanned pregnancies, "applaud[s] adding steps to buying condoms," according to the Post. In addition to CVS, some Safeway, Giant and Shopper's Food & Pharmacy Warehouse stores in the Washington, D.C., metro area permit locking up condoms based on individual store decisions (Washington Post, 4/11).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.