February 14, 2009

CVS says no condoms for you

While I was trying to un-depress myself I came across this article on the Curvature blog.

CVS Limits Condom Access for Some

Another CVS practice that disproportionally affects communities of color is the chain’s lockup of condoms. Condoms are one of the best defenses against unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS, but CVS makes it difficult for people of color to obtain them. At hundreds of stores across the country in areas where people of color predominate, CVS displays condoms in locked cabinets that require customers to summon CVS staff to unlock them and then monitors customers while making their selections. CVS is less likely to lock up condoms in areas with fewer residents of color, and the chain’s two main competitors do not lock up condoms.

Now, a little background for me, you guys know I come from Nashville. Nashville on a whole, I think, doesn't really have that many CVS stores. We have Walgreen's stores galore though. For the longest time I had no idea what the hell a CVS was until we passed one in a, let's say more upper-middle class area when I was little, and to this day I've only been in a CVS a handful of times. Walgreen's is my shit by the way.

So not particularly caring about CVS, in my time around the blogosphere I've been learning that, apparently, CVS has a problem with us colored folk, or at the least poor communities. I grew up in a poor, working class community, or better yet "The Hood", so apparently this explains why I'd never seen a CVS store until I was like...damn near 15. That and the Walgreen's stores kind of make it obsolete.

Again I say, not giving a fuck bout some CVS, I had no idea it was like that. But while reading Cara's analysis on this policy of locking up condoms, it got me thinking--it set off a couple of memories of home, and y'all know I'm suddenly homesick, so bear with me, I will have a point.

Like I said, we have a Walgreen's mafia. The closest Walgreen's to my house locked up their condoms--but they also locked up cough syrup & cold medicine and allergy medicine due to the meth epidemic. I remember once commenting to my mom about how shameful it was that we had to lock up condoms because someone would steal them. This particular Walgreen's literally got robbed every weekend so it was a surprise that they just didn't lock everything in the joint behind glass. But what was also odd was--or at least now after I read this information--was that this was a black community, but it was a fairly middle class area. The gas station never got robbed and I thought that was weird, but that's actually neither here nor there.

So, that Walgreen's locked up condoms & birth control. I said I could understand the cold medicine shit, sad as it was, but the condoms? Again though, keep in mind that Walgreen's got robbed an awful lot (it still does, poor guys).

A few of the Walgreen's in our area locked up condoms & birth control for what I always assumed to be security purposes, even in the more ritzy areas. The areas you would expect the Walgreen's employees to rob, not the other way around. I found it really sad that we had to lock up the Trojans from what we assumed to be randy teens that were too embarrassed/cheap/young to buy some damn Durex.

But the CVS. The nearest CVS to us was in a very upscale neighborhood, and while they did lock up the allergy medicine, the cold medicine and, hold on, condoms were on full view for folks to buy. I remember this because I was mostly bemused and sick. And now that I'm in college, you go in the convenience store in the Culp and the condoms are next to the fucking cough drops. It is university and at least they're promoting safe sex which is great. But as I've bemoaned constantly, I'm also in the whitest of the whitey white areas of the state, good ol' Appalachia.

So what am I getting at with this series of loosely connected stories? I already said I hadn't been in many CVS stores, so I can't comment on their policies really. Is there really some vast conspiracy against poor and/or black communities having to do with condoms? I think it's kind of interesting, and on that Curvature post in the comments there was a semi-discussion on whether this was classist or racist, with the consensus seeming to be that it's both. I agree with this even with my limited experience and I think it's a really interesting topic to go into.

Personally, my feelings on this supposed epidemic of condom theft is, at least in my neighborhood it isn't working. We still had really young girls getting pregnant and catching STDs at a scary rate. I say young folks because for some reason condom thefts are usually blamed on the young, probably with good reason. There seemed to be an awful lot of "condom breakage" too, suggesting to me that if indeed kids are out robbing stores of condoms, they still don't know how to use them (or didn't bother to use them, which ever). It all just goes back to crappy abstinence only sex-ed, really. Make your own damn problems, look at the consequences. Again I say, people wonder why shit happens.

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