Safeway's decision to move condoms into locked cabinets worries public health advocates
"I'm not sure you can criticize Safeway for protecting their merchandise," says Beth Brown, manager of San Francisco's New Generation Health Center. "I think there's a larger issue of a lack of resources and lack of resourcefulness."
Brown says she believes the Department of Public Health is responsible for providing these resources. One resource that is available is a service called Family PACT, which provides reproductive health services to low-income residents.
"The state of California pays for young people who need confidential services...and you can get all the birth control you want," she tells the Guardian. The New Generation Health Center enrolls teenagers and young adults in the service, and gives away free condoms to non-enrolled teenagers as well.
"The state of California is actually a very good place to be if you're young and sexually active," says Brown, "because they will pay for it."
"What's interesting about that," Verrilli said of Safeway's condom lockup, "is that it's kind of going backwards to where we used to be as opposed to moving forward to where we are."
Today, with condoms available to purchase for any age, public health clinics in most cities, and sexual education available on the Internet, making birth control readily and publicly accessible seems to be the next logical step. Besides preventing pregnancy, condoms are crucial in preventing the spread of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
"I think we should all be in the practice of increasing access to condoms rather than decreasing it," Noon said. "I don't know that Safeway's decision alone would make a huge contribution to the spread of HIV, but they could be setting a precedent that other stores that sell condoms might follow. If it were the case that Walgreen's and Rite-aid, etcetera, also began to follow this practice, I think we would have a problem."
SFBG'S CONDOM BUYER'S GUIDE FOR THE YOUNG AND SHY
A wide variety of unlocked condoms are sold at:
Planned Parenthood — 1650 Valencia St. off Mission
Price: 30 cents each, come individually and in strips of 8 or 10.
Plus: offers STD testing and other health services
Walgreens — 200 West Portal at 15th
Price: 12 count $14 and up
Walgreens — 3201 Divisadero at Lombard
Price: 12 count $8.99 and up
Plus: open 24 hours a day
Walgreens — 3400 Cesar Chavez at Mission
Price: 12 count $13.99 and up
Walgreens — 1496 Market at Van Ness
Price: 12 count $15.99 and up
CVS/Pharmacy — 731 Market at 3rd
Price: 12 count $12.99 and up
CVS/Pharmacy — 2025 Van Ness at Jackson
Price: 12 count $12.99 and up
Plus: open until midnight every day
Free condoms are available at:
New Generation Health Center — 625 Potrero at 18th
Plus: offers bags of 20 at a time
STOP AIDS — 2128 15th at Market
Plus: also distributes free condoms to restaurants and stores in the city including:
Marlena's — 488 Hayes at Octavia
SOMA Health Center — 551 Minna at 6th
Crossroads — 1519 Haight at Ashbury
LBGT Center — 1800 Market at Octavia
Books Inc. — 2275 Market at Noe