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Happy anniversary to condom vending machines: It’s now time to tackle price and availability

By May 29, 2003News

– Release date: 30 May 2003

The Irish Family Planning Association said that the 10th anniversary since the passing of legislation to allow for the liberal sale of condoms should be marked by a campaign to promote their use.

In the run up to the June back holiday weekend in 1993, the Dail passed all stages of the Family Planning (Amendment) Bill which removed condoms from the list of contraceptive devices and allowed for their sale through shops and vending machines. The legislation was put forward primarily as a measure to reduce the spread of HIV and, following it’s passing, the Department of Health funded a media advertising campaign to promote safe sex.

"Ten years on since the passing of this legislation, although condoms are more widely available for sale, the prevalence of Sexually Transmitted Infections has hit an all-time high. The latest statistics from the National Disease Surveillance Centre show that the instance of STIs increased by 10% during the first 6 months of 2001, when compared with the same period in 2000," said Catherine Heaney, Chief Executive of the IFPA.

"Clearly the increased potential for selling condoms is not a solution in itself to the spread of Sexually Transmitted Infections. A multi-pronged campaign which involves awareness programmes and increased availability of condoms is also required.

"The Minister for Health should use the opportunity of this anniversary to invest in a new advertising campaign to promote safe sex. The advertising campaign of ten years ago means nothing to young people who are becoming sexually active, because they weren’t even teenagers at the time. Such a campaign should focus on promoting responsibility in sexual relationships and the proper use of quality condoms.

"While a broad range of retailers now sell condoms, there are effective black spots in the country where condoms are unavailable for sale or availability is extremely limited. Making condoms available free of charge in local health centres could help to overcome this problem.

"The issue of cost is also a significant factor. For VAT purposes, condoms are considered a luxury item, commanding a rate of 21%. Depending on variety, a box of 12 condoms can cost as much as 20 euro in some outlets, making them completely unaffordable for someone on a low income.

"Measures need to be taken to make condoms more affordable through the state purchase of condoms and VAT exemptions on the commodity. While the Government may not want to consider the immediate revenue losses associated with these measures, the costs associated with testing and treating STIs may be far greater in the long-term."