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Condom Distribution Programs

Condom distribution programs (CDPs) are a type of structural intervention that involve the distribution of condoms as a mechanism to prevent HIV transmission. CDPs have been shown to be 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. According to the CDC, CDPs “have been proven to increase condom use, prevent HIV/STIs, and save money.”

CDPs are considered a structural intervention because they aim to change the environment by improving access to and acceptance of condoms as a mechanism to prevent HIV transmission. Most often these types of programs are implemented as a prevention strategy in conjunction with health promotion, education, and other risk-reduction interventions. CDC outlines several important components of effective CDPs, including:

  • Offering free condoms
  • Promoting and distributing widely in the community
  • Embedding CDPs in other community-wide prevention efforts and events
  • Combining CDPs with other HIV risk-reduction strategies

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 Rural 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 uses the CDC 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 CDC'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, a community-based participatory research partnership implemented and studied the impact of HoMBReS on condom use and HIV testing. HoMBReS is a CDC evidence-based intervention that was designed for the Latino population in the United States. In this research partnership, health workers promoted condom use in Hispanic/Latino men. The program has since successfully been replicated with other population groups and in other communities.

Considerations for Implementation

Condom distribution and education about their 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 to successfully implementing these programs in some communities. For example, 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. 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

Effectiveness of Community-Based Condom Distribution Interventions to Prevent HIV in the United States: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis
Summarizes the evidence collected from published studies looking at the effectiveness of community-based condom distribution programs in the U.S. between the years 1989 and 2011.
Authors(s): Malekinejad, M., Parriott, A., Blodgett, J.C., et al.
Citation: PLoS One, 12(8)
Date: 8/2017