Free Condom Distribution: What We Don’t Know May Hurt Us
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The provision of commodities is an important element of nearly all public health programs. In HIV programs, commodities can be very expensive, like antiretroviral drugs for treatment or prevention, or they can be relatively cheap, like male condoms. Because of the contrast between incomes in developing countries and the costs of life-saving medications like antiretroviral drugs, recipients are often provided expensive medications free of all charge to increase access and encourage adherence. Condoms, on the other hand, are equally essential for prevention of HIV infection, are relatively inexpensive and are often judged to be affordable for users, even in the most resource-constrained settings. Condoms are often sold at a subsidized price through social marketing programs in an effort to make them even more affordable and, in theory, more valued and likely to be used since they require payment.
Recently, a debate over the relative merit of free versus subsidized distribution of...