Post the launch of a new project, Washington DC is set to become the first city in the United States to distribute female condoms for free. These will be made available in beauty salons, convenience stores and high schools in order to fight HIV/AIDS.
The distribution could begin within the next three weeks in parts of wards 1, 2, 3, 6 and 7, where a study showed that large numbers of African American heterosexuals engage in risky sexual behaviour that could easily lead to infection, health officials say.
Officials added that they are turning to female condoms to give women more power to protect themselves from HIV and sexually transmitted diseases when their partners refuse to use protection.
"Anywhere male condoms are available, female condoms will be available. We're not saying that if you're a school in this area, you can't get female condoms. We're trying to make every effort count to build on what already exists to expand options rather than limit them," The Washington Post quoted Shannon Hader, director of the D.C. HIV/AIDS Administration, as saying.
HIV/AIDS infection is the leading cause of death for black women aged 25-34 in the US.
A 2008 report found Washington DC's HIV/AIDS rate at 3 percent, or about 15,100 adults, a major epidemic.
The project is funded through a 500,000 dollars grant from the MAC AIDS Fund, a subsidiary of MAC Cosmetics, which contributes to numerous city programs, including two of the city's needle exchange programs.