Womens Health

The Push for Female Condoms in Washington, D.C.

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Back in March, Jodi Jacobson reported that community groups in Washington, D.C., would begin handing out free female condoms. NPR reports that the campaign has grown, however, to include a public education campaign on buses, and the first availability in drug stores.

CVS is selling them in all its District of Columbia drugstores — though sales so far are slow — making Washington the only place where people can get them outside a health clinic or community group. And city officials are starting another promotion: a website and posters on 460 buses, about a third of the city's fleet.

The ads, which feature a cuddling couple, a female condom package and the words "Get turned on to it," will run for three months and again in the spring. "The female condom with pleasure points for her and him — to tease, please and protect. Go on, give it a try," the ad urges.

Keep in mind, this is an all new female condom, not the plastic bag-like contraceptive you may have tried in the past.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved female condoms in 1993, though they have never been widely available in the U.S. Leeper estimates that only 1 percent or 2 percent have tried them.

That's in part because the original version wasn't popular. Users complained about the price, about $3.60 for a single condom. Others said the material, polyurethane, reminded them of a doctor's examination glove and sounded like a plastic bag crinkling when used.

About a year ago, however, the FDA approved a new version of the condom called the FC2. Made of a synthetic material called nitrile, it is less expensive — about $2 each — and not noisy.

The campaign is making a difference to at least one person already.

Jamika Roundtree, 24, who also watched the presentation and left with three condoms, said she was willing to experiment. A few days later she reported the female condom didn't irritate her body like latex condoms and was easy to use.

"It's better than any other condom I've used yet," she said.

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