An advocacy group founded in 2006 to promote access to protection against STDs has revived a countywide campaign calling for to display condoms in unlocked displays.
The Save Lives: Free the Condoms group’s September 2011 census of CVS stores in Prince George’s County found that 30 percent of them had condoms locked up or otherwise immediately inaccessible to shoppers.
The stores with locked and inaccessible condoms were more likely to be located in minority neighborhoods and neighborhoods with higher rates of HIV than the stores with accessible condoms, according to the study.
“This is simply unacceptable,” states a letter to Metropolitan Washington Public Health Association members. “We're advocating for all [Prince George's] County stores to unlock their condoms and for CVS to adopt a nationwide policy guaranteeing freely accessible condoms in all of its stores, once and for all!”
But CVS said the stores with locked up condoms have historically been targets of theft.
“All CVS/pharmacy locations in Prince George’s County sell condoms that are unlocked and accessible,” said Michael DeAngelis, CVS spokesman. “However, in some stores where condoms have been heavily shoplifted, a selection of condoms are kept in a secured display to ensure that there is stock available for customers to purchase.
"This decision is based on the theft experience of the store, not its specific location.”
In stores with secured condom displays, CVS also keeps a selection of condoms that are unlocked and available for purchase without seeking help from employees in retrieving them, DeAngelis said.
“The Free the Condoms ‘census’ ignores the fact that the CVS locations where they observed secured condoms also sell unlocked condoms,” DeAngelis said. “Our product protection policies are based on each store’s theft experience, not its location or the demographics of its customers.”
Save Lives: Free the Condoms organizers have set up a petition online.