Amid Rising STDs, France Makes Condoms Freely Available For People Between The Ages Of 18 And 25 – Forbes

French to make condoms freely available at pharmacies for 18-25 year olds.
This week, French President Emmanuel Macron said that condoms would be made freely available in pharmacies for those 18 to 25 years old, beginning in January of 2023. The main purpose of this new policy is to fight the spread of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Health authorities estimate that the number of STDs in France increased by 30% in both 2020 and 2021. The government will also be providing free STD tests to the same age group.
Condoms are already partially reimbursed by the national healthcare system if prescribed by a doctor or other medical professional. Specifically, health insurance reimburses 60% of the cost. People who have supplementary insurance can get reimbursed in full.
Last week, the French Parliament also passed a law that allows young women to get a free morning-after pill from the pharmacy after unprotected sex.
For several years, French legislators have been pushing for improved access to both hormonal contraception and condoms, to curb unwanted pregnancies and target the spread of STDs.
The U.S. is also seeing sharply rising cases of STDs, including a 26% increase in new syphilis infections in 2021. And HIV cases rose 16% in 2021.
The emergent crisis in STDs is prompting public health officials in the U.S. to call for new prevention efforts. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), for example, suggests expanding condom distribution programs as a “cost-effective structural intervention that provides communities with resources needed to prevent the spread of HIV.” Here, the CDC recommends STD testing, such as for HIV, and has a link that includes clinics and other sites where testing is costless.
But, as is so often the case in the U.S., what happens in practice at the local level is a patchwork of policies. Some clinics offer free condoms and STD tests. But, clinic availability can be an issue, especially in rural areas.
Public health officials have been promoting the idea of home-test kits for STDs, to facilitate access to the tests. But the tests tend to be quite costly for consumers and are generally not reimbursed. This year California did become the first state require that health insurers cover home STD tests. Other states may follow suit.
Likewise, the situation across the U.K. and Europe is varied. In the U.K., for most people under 25, STD tests are free. However, free tests are not (yet) available at pharmacies. Condoms can be gotten for free at family planning clinics and at the local general practitioner. However, the British Medical Association is asking that the government provide condoms free of charge at all pharmacies as this would reduce barriers to access.
Most European Union (E.U.) countries offer free condoms and STD testing at sexual health clinics. However, condoms and STD tests are not widely available for free – for any age group – at pharmacies or primary care practices.
Use of hormonal contraceptives still requires a prescription in most European countries as it does in the U.S.. Nevertheless, a growing number of European countries have over-the-counter (OTC) availability. This also includes the U.K. Additionally, the emergency contraception (morning after pill) is available OTC in almost all E.U. countries. Across Europe, out-of-pocket costs for all types of hormonal contraceptives are usually minimal, and even free of charge if obtained at contraception clinics and most sexual health clinics.
Rising STD infections led to the French decision to facilitate free access to condoms and STD tests in pharmacies for the 18 to 25 age group. And, the French are expanding free access to hormonal contraceptives for women. The U.K. and a number of other countries in Europe appear to be adopting similar measures to meet public health needs, though it’s unlikely policies will be harmonized. In the U.S., public health officials have advocated broadening access to free STD tests and condoms. However, it’s likely considerable variation will persist locally and at the state level, and that for most people these items will not be freely available.


Leave a Comment