Love Lockdown?


Swiped from The Curvature, Cara writes about limited condom access at CVS stores. We’ve all seen condoms locked up behind the counter or out in the aisle somewhere. Like Cara says, I don’t buy condoms at places I need to ask permission to get inside the case. It’s a rubber, not the Hope Diamond! Anyway, it sucks but it’s not hard to believe that communities of color are getting hit with the lockup more so than others. Read the blog below and then click the link at the bottom to make your voice heard on the issue:Cara –

CVS pharmacy apparently has a policy, in many places, of locking up condoms. This means that if you go to the store and want to buy condoms, you need to find someone who works there, ask them to unlock the case for you, and have them stand there and watch you while you choose the condoms that you would like to purchase.

This is bad public health policy, period.  Condoms are the most effective method, other than abstinence (which “fails” more often), at preventing STDs and HIV/AIDS.  They are also the most effective non-hormonal method of preventing pregnancy, and one of the most popular contraceptive methods overall.  Condoms are, in fact, a public health imperative.

And while we may wish to live in a world where no one saw openly acknowledging sex or discussing contraceptive use as embarrassing — I certainly do — the fact is that we don’t live in that world.  In this world, a lot of people are embarrassed to discuss these things — especially women who are often still made to feel that carrying condoms makes them a “slut” and that condom use isn’t supposed to be their responsibility.  And the sentence “can you unlock the condom case?” is just too much for a lot of people in this culture (especially those who are particularly shy or have anxiety disorders) to bear.

All of this would be bad on its own, surely.  But it gets a whole lot worse when you add into the mix that CVS is a hell of a lot more likely to use this lock up policy in neighborhoods with high populations of people of color.

Take a look at this chart, which shows that the less white a neighborhood gets, the more likely the condoms are to be behind lock and key.  When the population of an area is less than 10% of color, only 0-9% of their stores have the condoms locked.  When the population is less than 10% white, those statistics range from 67-100%.  The difference is staggering.

The proportion of CVS stores that lock up condoms increases with the percentage of residents of color in the stores’ zip codes as shown in the table. In all six cities, the percentage of stores locking up condoms in zip codes where people of color are the majority was higher than the proportion in zip codes with white majorities. In five of the six cities, the share of CVS stores with locked condoms is more than three times higher in majority people of color areas than in majority white ones.

As Cure CVS Now’s website also notes, HIV/AIDS rates in communities of color, black communities specifically, are much higher than in white communities.  So this practice is not only discriminatory — the effects are also disproportionately discriminatory and have a much wider effect than they would on white populations if the situation was (somehow, in a fantasy land that does not exist) reversed.

Not everyone has the option to just “go to another pharmacy.”  So while it may be well within CVS’ rights, as a business, to enact these kinds of discriminatory practices — and many others, as you can see — it’s also well within our rights to not shop there, if we do have the option.  After all, as Cure CVS Now’s website again notes, the chain’s two largest competitors — Walgreens and Rite Aid — have policies against condom lock up.

For Valentine’s Day, tell CVS to “Have a Heart” and unlock the condoms. And until these policies change, do your best to shop at pharmacies that give a shit about public health and equal access.


Filed under Good Reads, Health & Wellness, Pay Attention!, Swiped, Talk Sex

4 responses to “Love Lockdown?

  1. missayana

    oddly enough you dont have to do all of that to get an abortion.

    strange tings a gwan

  2. I didnt realise that CVS’ “condom lock up” was policy. I just thought it was something they did to deter theft. Cause if I could steal stuff, condoms would be on the list – you could really sell those!

    I dont understand people sometimes. I can understand being shy and not wanting to be embarassed in a store, but isnt protecting yourself from disease and pregnancy important? If I had a choice between embarassment and protection, Id go for protection. And if that wasnt a choice for me, and my choice was now sex without a condom or no sex, I definitely go for the latter! People need to respect themselves more, Black women in particular. Dont be afraid to say no!


  3. bubblin' brown shuga

    yes it is stupid that people are shy about asking for condoms but its as stupid in the hood as it is in the burbs. to err is human and a lot of things considered “stupid” are simply human nature. not black nature, not white nature but human nature—so why arent they on lockdown in westchester as well as in harlem? im not a racially sensitive person (see Al Sharpton) but i aint nobody’s fool either. i know latent racism when i see it. its assumed that those who have/spread AIDS arent the best decision makers in the first place so the condoms should be accessible. the last thing the hood (or anywhere else for that matter) needs is another instigating factor to babies born out of wedlock, the spread of stds or a black market of condom hustling.

  4. Gizzle

    I explained this phenomenon to my mother the other day:

    In black neighborhoods, the condoms are locked up at the drugstore.
    In white neighborhoods, the cough/sinus medicine is locked up in the drugstore. (for meth)
    So, if you’re wondering the demographics of a place (like considering to move there), check the drugstore lock up policy.

    I never thought about the ramifications of people being shy about asking for condoms, only that it was an anti-theft measure. But now that you mention it, it is true that it probably deters lots of people from buying condoms if they gotta wait at the condom case, page an employee over the intercom and be watched when they pick out the condoms.

    I’ve had a good laugh at Wal-Mart giving the clerk VERY descriptive instructions about which condoms I wanted . . . “no, no, no- I want the ones in the purple box. The LIGHT purple box . . . her pleasure please!”
    There were like 10 people in line behind us. It was like 2am in the morning. Hilarity!

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