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We clown a lot on here, but AIDs is no joke! We’re actually relieved to see that the District of Columbia is stepping up by becoming the first U.S. city to give out the condoms for free. The sad part is that this program wasn’t established until after a Washington Post investigation revealed fraudulent activities going on with the AIDS/HIV administration. More detailed information on the flipside.

The District will become the first city in the United States to distribute female condoms free, part of a project that will make 500,000 of them available in beauty salons, convenience stores and high schools in parts of the city with high HIV rates.

City officials said the distribution could begin within the next three weeks in parts of wards 1, 2, 3, 6 and 7, where a study showed that large numbers of African American heterosexuals engage in risky sexual behavior that could easily lead to infection.

The move is an official acknowledgment of the futility of relying solely on the use of male condoms, which have been distributed citywide for nearly a decade, to stem the District’s epidemic of HIV and AIDS. Officials said they are turning to female condoms to give women more power to protect themselves from HIV and sexually transmitted diseases when their partners refuse to use protection.

HIV/AIDS infection is the leading cause of death for black women 25-34 nationwide. A 2008 report showed the District’s HIV/AIDS rate at 3 percent, or about 15,100 adults, a major epidemic.

“Anywhere male condoms are available, female condoms will be available,” said Shannon Hader, director of the D.C. HIV/AIDS Administration. “We’re not saying that if you’re a school in this area, you can’t get female condoms. We’re trying to make every effort count to build on what already exists . . . to expand options rather than limit them.”

The project is funded through a $500,000 grant from the MAC AIDS Fund, a subsidiary of MAC Cosmetics, which contributes to numerous city programs, including two of the city’s needle exchange programs. The grant helped the city buy the condoms at wholesale prices from the Female Health Co. and provide them for distribution by social service organizations, including Planned Parenthood, the Community Education Group and the Women’s Collective.

In recent months, the HIV/AIDS Administration came under scrutiny after a Washington Post investigation revealed that some groups with which it contracted to provide services failed to obtain business licenses and file tax returns. Others gave false information about employee résumés and consulting contracts, or spent lavishly on travel and executive salaries.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development threatened to withhold $12.2 million in federal funding but released the money after the District agreed to improve its tracking of spending by AIDS programs and monitor the services they deliver…

The media takes a lot of criticism for being negative, but at the end of the day the public should be thanking the media for asking the hard questions and really snooping around when it’s critical to know the truth! If the Washington Post hadn’t been looking into these AIDS program, how many of you think this female condom program would be going into effect right now?

The Post story also pointed out that this new program will help women take on more responsibility for their own health, citing how some of the women most vulnerable to infection felt they had few options in the past:

Activists say poor women often are reluctant to protest when their husbands and boyfriends refuse to use male condoms because they are dependent on the man’s income.

It’s also interesting to note that the U.S. is far behind when it comes to this particular form of contraception:

The female condom has been available in Europe for nearly two decades and was first approved for use by the FDA in 1993. Its use in the United States was limited and ineffective. Women complained that the first version, FC1, was too expensive, about $17 for a box of five, and unsatisfactory.

Last year the Federal Drug Administration approved a second version, FC2, with a thinner polyurethane that conducts body heat and enhances sexual sensation for men and women, according to its designers at the Female Health Co. The new condom was developed in 2005 and became widely used in South Africa. It is now in use in nations such as Indonesia and Brazil.

CVS became the nation’s first pharmacy to sell the new condom after the group contacted the company, said Vernon Goad, CVS’s field marketing manager in the Washington area. Goad said the pharmacy will offer the female condoms next to male condoms in all of its 56 city stores, not just in target areas. A package of three female condoms sells for $6.50. A three-pack of male condoms sells for $5 to $7.

Protection is vital! Life is Precious – no pun intended. We can’t say it enough.