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Health officials:
Drugstores that lock up condoms hamper HIV prevention

Health officials:
Drugstores that lock up condoms hamper HIV prevention

Locking condoms in cabinets to prevent theft discourages their use.

Health officials in Washington, D.C., say drugstores in the district that lock condoms in cabinets that must be opened for customers by store workers, such as the CVS pharmacy chain, are hampering HIV prevention efforts by discouraging condom use, The Washington Post reports. A survey showed that 22 of CVS's 50 drugstores in the D.C. area placed condoms in locked cabinets to prevent theft. Most of those 22 outlets were in poorer neighborhoods that have high rates of HIV, sexually transmitted diseases, and unintended pregnancies, according to the analysis.

Condoms also were found to be locked up at Safeway, Giant, and Shopper's Food & Pharmacy Warehouse stores in the district.

"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, told the Post. "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."

But while health officials worry that making condoms difficult to obtain will only further fuel the district's already disproportionately high HIV rate, conservative groups pushing abstinence encourage making condoms more difficult for youths to obtain. Citizens for Community Values "applauds adding steps to buying condoms," reports the Post.

The HIV rate in D.C. is 10 times the national average, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. An estimated 5% of the district's 500,000 residents are HIV-positive; about 2% have been diagnosed with AIDS. (The Advocate)

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