Protest on Thursday in Philadelphia Urges CVS To End Practice of Locking Condoms in Display Cases
Philadelphia Daily News columnist Jenice Armstrong on Thursday examined the efforts of Washington, D.C.-based labor organization Change To Win to encourage CVS pharmacies to end the practice of keeping some condoms in locked display cases in certain stores. The organization is staging a protest on Thursday in front of a CVS located in a predominately black neighborhood in Philadelphia (Armstong, Philadelphia Daily News, 2/12). The group held similar protests last year outside of several CVS pharmacies in New York City and four other cities to protest what they say are unequal services provided to minority communities across the country.
The coalition claims that the pharmacy chain keeps certain products -- such as condoms, infant formula and baby food -- in locked cabinets in stores in communities with larger minority populations, while such items are not locked up at stores in white neighborhoods. The coalition has issued a report on its findings (Kaiser Health Disparities Report, 12/4/08).
Joanna Bouldin of Change to Win said, "For a company to put barriers to people making wise choices, we feel is unacceptable." She added, "Philadelphia is facing an HIV-infection crisis," noting that the city has an HIV rate that is five times the national average and that HIV is the leading cause of death among black women ages 25 to 34. Gary Bell, executive director of Blacks Educating Blacks About Sexual Health Issues, said he finds the practice "detrimental and insensitive to communities that are being ravaged by sexual health issues."
CVS has defended the practice, stating that certain products are in locked displays in stores with high theft. The company also said it maintains "a selection of condoms that are not locked and are available for customers to purchase without asking for assistance from store employees." According to a statement from the company, Change to Win is a consortium of labor unions that has "threatened to disparage our company unless we agreed to waive our employees' right to vote in confidential union elections. ... CtW's inaccurate allegations and accompanying media outreach is their latest attempt to achieve this objective" (Philadelphia Daily News, 2/12). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.