PARIS, France (AFP) – The French government said on Tuesday it would take the rare step of reimbursing condoms purchased with a prescription to combat the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
The measure, which covers the French-made condoms of Eden obtained with a physician's or midwife's prescription, was announced before World AIDS Day on Saturday.
Produced by Majorelle laboratories and sold only in pharmacies, Eden condoms cost a fraction of leading brands such as Durex or Manix at 2.60 euros (US $ 2.95) for a box of 12.
They are the first to be approved for reimbursement by the national health authority of France, one of the few in Europe that does so.
In a statement, the company described the announcement as "sending a strong signal that (a condom) is not a sex toy, but a real and indispensable prevention tool" in the fight against sexually transmitted infections.
In July, a study by the health department showed cases of chlamydia and gonococcus, two common STIs, which tripled in France between 2012 and 2016, with people from 15 to 24 years old especially affected.
The study indicated that the increase was due to people having sex with "an increasing number of couples together with the non-systematic use of condoms".
When asked why her brand was selected, a spokesperson for Majorelle, founded in 2012 with the stated goal of reducing inequality in access to health products, said: "We were the first to ask."
Agnes Buzyn, the health minister who is a trained doctor, sounded the alarm about the risk of HIV transmission among young people who are adverse to the condom.
Around 6,000 new cases of HIV infection were diagnosed in 2016, which represents a decrease of five percent since 2013, bringing the number of people living with the virus in France to more than 172,000.
Buzyn warned that young people increasingly "use a condom the first time they have sex but not in later cases."
Majorelle cited a study that shows that 75 percent of young people would use more condoms if the cost were covered by the state.
He said the state would cover 60 percent of the cost of condoms and expects complementary health insurance providers to cover the rest.
The news was acclaimed by NGOs involved in the fight against HIV / AIDS.
"Anything that facilitates access to prevention is good news," said Florence Thune, director of the Sidaction Association.
"There should not be any financial obstacle, whatever the method," he said.
"It's another rope for our bow," said Caroline Izambert, an activist with the HIV prevention group Aides.