SF encourages gay men to use female condoms

Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco health officials are stepping up the fight against spread of sexually transmitted diseases by urging the use of a more comfortable, redesigned female condom.

The city is the nation’s first to encourage use of the new FC2 condom by women and gay men.

The San Francisco Chronicle says health officials began pushing use of female condoms in the mid-1990s, but they were criticized as awkward, uncomfortable and expensive.

Last year, the manufacturer redesigned the safe-sex female condom using a thinner material. The two rings securing the condom are also made of a softer material.

The condoms will be available at city clinics without charge. Free condoms were distributed Monday at San Francisco’s Civic Center, San Francisco State University, Dolores Park, the Bayview and the Castro.

—  John Wright

Va. closes new enrollment for AIDS drug program

Associated Press

RICHMOND, Va. — The Virginia Department of Health says that it’s been forced to close new enrollment into its AIDS Drug Assistance Program, which provides HIV-related medication for low-income people.

There are some exceptions, including allowing pregnant women and children 18 years old and younger to continue to enroll in the program. The department also reduced the number of drugs the program covers.

Virginia funds 14 percent of the $21.6 million program; the federal government covers the vast majority.

The Roanoke Times reports that Health Commissioner Karen Remley wrote in a December letter to health providers that ADAP won’t be able to keep pace with demand.

“ADAP is not categorized as an entitlement program, and therefore, funding is insufficient to provide medication coverage for all low-income or uninsured individuals. The current financial situation is now requiring even greater reliance upon the manufacturers’ patient assistance programs (PAPs),” she wrote.

State figures show that about 4,200 Virginians used ADAP last year.

Health officials say the number of Virginians living with HIV has increased 44 percent since 2000. About 64 percent lack health insurance, which would cover their treatments and medications.

—  John Wright