French President Emmanuel Macron said condoms would be made available to young adults for free in pharmacies in a bid to reduce unwanted pregnancies and the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Macron made the announcement on Thursday during a health debate with young people aged eighteen to twenty-five years old in Fontaine-le-Comte, a suburb of Poitiers in western France.
“In pharmacies, condoms will be free for those aged 18 to 25 from January 1,” he said.
He described the move which will allow young people to attain condoms from pharmacies as a “small revolution in prevention.”
Condoms part of France’s birth control program
The move comes after the French government began offering free birth control for all women under twenty-five this year in order to expand a scheme targeting under-18s.
The move is also meant to ensure that young women do not stop taking contraception if they cannot afford it.
However, condoms are already reimbursed by the national healthcare system if prescribed by a doctor or midwife. This came into effect in 2018 as a measure intended to fight the spread of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.
Earlier this year, the French government made contraception free for all women up to twenty-five years old. It was a move that affected three million women.
Contraception had previously been free for women and girls eighteen or younger.
France is challenged in educating young people
Statistically, in 2020 and 2021, France experienced a thirty percent national increase in STI rates. Therefore, Macron said his country was experiencing educational challenges around sexual education.
“We are not very good on this subject,” he said. “The reality is very, very different from the theory. It’s an area where we need to much better educate our teachers.”
Based on this, the new measure comes alongside other health initiatives targeting the spread of STIs and improving access to contraception.
In a tweet on Thursday, Macron announced the directive will exist alongside other health measures. These include free emergency contraception for all women in pharmacies as well as free, non-prescription STI screenings to those under the age of twenty-six. This will not include HIV screenings.
Macron wore a mask during announcement
During the conference at which Macron made the announcement, the President wore a face mask and said he was following “health ministry guidelines.”
Macron said, “Faced with the new spread of the epidemic…I think it’s good to set an example because we don’t necessarily want to return to overall mandates.”
The French government is weighing its response to a rise in COVID-19 cases ahead of the holidays, although, so far, no mask mandates have been reintroduced.
However, officials in France are urging people to wear masks in crowded venues and to get COVID-19 vaccine booster shots as winter approaches.