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Condom Distribution Programs as Part of an HIV Prevention Strategy

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), condom distribution programs are a type of structural intervention that involve the distribution of condoms as a mechanism to prevent HIV transmission. Condom distribution programs have been shown to be the most effective in preventing STIs and HIV when implemented as a component of a larger education and prevention strategy. Proper use of condoms during sexual encounters greatly reduces the chance that an HIV-positive person will infect his/her partner with HIV. Condom distribution programs “have been proven to increase condom use, prevent HIV/STIs, and save money.” Research suggests that people who live in rural parts of the U.S. may be less likely to use condoms for a variety of reasons. Condom distribution and promotion programs involve the distribution of condoms and education about condoms as a mechanism to prevent HIV transmission. Most often these types of programs are implemented as a prevention strategy in conjunction with education and other risk-reduction programs. Rural organizations and health departments may distribute condoms and other risk-reduction supplies during education and testing events. For example, one rural community-based organization organized a prevention education team that works with regional partners to offer education programs and risk reduction supplies in regional high schools and universities.

Examples of Condom Distribution Programs:

  • Chattanooga CARES implements a condom distribution program as part of its prevention, education, and outreach programs. As part of these programs, CARES implements the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention evidence-based intervention Healthy Relationships, which incorporates condom distribution by conducting outreach to people who are living with HIV to suggest condom use with new partners and to change other risky behaviors. This intervention has been shown to effectively decrease risky sexual behaviors.
  • The Mpowerment Intervention, a program included in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Compendium of Evidence-Based Interventions, incorporates a condom distribution service within their community-level HIV prevention program. Young gay men serve as peer outreach workers and educate other young gay men in small-group settings on proper condom use and offer free condoms.
  • Maine Health Equity Alliance is a nonprofit organization serving rural counties of Maine that offers a condom and dental dam distribution program in all of their offices free of charge. In addition to these services, the organization also offers free, anonymous sexual health consultations; case management services; and a syringe exchange program in an effort to prevent HIV transmission.
  • In North Carolina, HoMBReS is a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Evidence-Based Intervention that was designed for the Latino population in the United States. The research partnership used lay health workers to promote condom use in Hispanic/Latino men and has since successfully been replicated with other population groups and in other communities.

Considerations for Implementation

Distributing and educating about condom use is a well-known HIV prevention strategy. Still, in some locations, implementing programs that include condom distribution can be a challenge. While many evidence-based prevention interventions include condom distribution among populations such as adolescents, there are barriers in some communities. Distributing condoms in schools as part of health education courses is acceptable in some school districts but is not universally accepted.

As with other types of programs, funding and resources should be considered before implementing a condom distribution program. CDC notes that, in order for a condom distribution program to be effective, condoms should be offered for free, should be distributed broadly, and distribution should be complemented by other HIV prevention and risk reduction interventions. In addition, targeting high-risk individuals and those most in need of these services can be a challenge. In small rural communities where people feel there is a lack of privacy, picking up condoms from an organization or purchasing them from a store may be difficult.

Resources to Learn More

Efficacy of Structural-Level Condom Distribution Interventions: A Meta-Analysis of U.S. and International Studies
A systematic review of structural-level condom distribution interventions and the effect on HIV risk behaviors. The findings from the review suggest that interventions focused on improving availability and accessibility of condoms could be one of the most promising methods of increasing condom use.
Author(s): Charania, M.R., Crepaz, N., Guenther-Gray, C., Henny, K., Liau, A., Willis, L.A., & Lyles, C.M.
Citation: AIDS and Behavior, 15(7), 1283-1297
Date: 2011