Friday, June 12, 2009

Unlocking Condom Cases at CVS

For teens and adults alike, it is awkward enough walking through CVS to grab a pack of condoms, but imagine needing to ask an employee to find a key to unlock the condom case! CVS has locked condom cases in stores nationwide, exacerbating this awkwardness, undoubtedly causing people who had planned to be careful in their sexual practices to second guess the need to buy them out of fear of shame.

In a time when sexual education has been practically eliminated in many public schools, and the rates of STIs and HIV/AIDS are skyrocketing (especially in Washington, DC), there is no reason for condoms to be difficult to access.

Six FMF interns and I braved the DC metro yesterday to attend a rally in front of CVS in Dupont Circle. The rally supported the Cure CVS initiative to stop CVS from locking up condom cases. Speakers ranging from Los Angeles to Washington, DC, came to the rally to fight for this cause, and speak about safe family planning. While CVS might argue that locking condom cases is a method of theft prevention, speakers from Los Angeles who had sampled CVS stores in East Los Angeles found that 75% of locked cases were in neighborhoods that were predominantly African American or Latino, insinuating racial slurs.

Additionally, speakers mentioned how the language barrier might prevent Latinos and other ethnicities whose first language is not English from being able to buy condoms. Skeptics of this campaign argue that we take our business elsewhere, to RiteAid, Walgreens, etc, but many of these stores are not open 24 hours a day like many CVS stores are.

Locking up condoms leads to larger public problems that I am not sure that CVS understands. Unwanted pregnancies that might arise from lack of accessibility to condoms might lead to the want/need for abortion, which automatically becomes a political issue. The risk of contracting HIV/AIDS from not wearing condoms also leads to health care issues and extraordinary medical bills. We live in a society that understands the importance of condoms, and there is no need for CVS to continue blocking their access.

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