D.C. promotes free female condoms in Metrobus ads

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Local,Joey Flechas

The District has become one of the first cities in the nation to distribute female condoms for free, and the Washington AIDS Partnership has rolled out a campaign to use the condoms as a way to combat the spread of HIV.

The "DC Doin' It!" campaign started this week, with ads appearing on the sides of 460 Metrobuses and brochures being distributed through community partners to promote the Female Condom Initiative.

"We're presenting it in a manner that's sexy that doesn't only focus on the prevention benefits," said Sarah Gaudreau, project director for the initiative.

Gaudreau said feedback has been gathered since March, when the city joined with the Washington AIDS Partnership to conduct education programs and focus groups to gauge the level of interest in and knowledge of female condoms.

She said people responded better to the emphasis on the more pleasurable aspects of the female condom rather than the protection, as the condom is designed to add more pleasure for both the male and female.

She also said the novelty of it could make partners curious and more intimate with each other.

"When you're introducing a new method of protection, there's a conversation that has to be had, and it increases the intimacy," she said.

Gaudreau said younger members of the community have been more receptive to the condoms, but the project has made a positive impression on people of all ages.

CVS Pharmacy has joined the initiative to make the condoms more readily available when the free clinics are closed. They have agreed to stock the condoms, which come in packs of three for $6.49, at all 56 of its District stores.

The campaign is also debuting a Web site, www.dcdoinit.com, which will list where to get the condoms and how to use them.

The MAC AIDS Fund has provided the District Department of Health and the Washington AIDS Partnership with a $500,000 grant for the grassroots campaign that aims to distribute 500,000 condoms.

The distribution is being handled by local organizations that serve D.C. neighborhoods hit hardest by HIV/AIDS, including Our Place DC, the Women's Collective and Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington.

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