Page last updated at 17:46 GMT, Saturday, 6 March 2010

Washington DC to distribute female condoms

The new female condom (Pic: Female Health Company)
The female condom was redesigned and relaunched in the US

Washington DC will become the first city in the US to make female condoms available for free, the Washington Post has reported.

The contraceptives will be handed out in beauty salons, convenience stores and high schools in areas with high rates of HIV/Aids infection.

Male condoms have long been handed out but infection rates remain high among Washington's black residents.

Female condoms have been on sale since 1993 but take-up has been slow.

The initial version of the contraceptive was judged by US customers to be too expensive.

However, a new version now being used in countries including South Africa, Brazil, and Indonesia will be distributed in Washington DC and offered for sale in pharmacies alongside male condoms.

Cutting edge

"Anywhere male condoms are available, female condoms will be available," Shannon Hader, director of the city's HIV/AIDS administration, told the Washington Post.

"We're trying to make every effort count to build on what already exists... to expand options rather than limit them."

HIV/Aids infection is the leading cause of death for black women aged 25-34 in the US.

A 2008 report showed Washington DC's HIV/Aids rate at 3%, or about 15,100 adults, the Post reported.

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