Careplus pharmacies gave away at least 10,000 free condoms in the days surrounding Valentine’s Day to “help promote a culture of safe sex” and highlight the higher VAT rate condoms are subject to.
The pharmacy chain gave away Durex condoms in packs of three with information leaflets highlighting the importance of safe sex and contraceptives.
The Health Protection Surveillance Unit of the HSE released figures that show rates of chlamydia, herpes simplex and gonorrhoea are on the increase.
There is no limit to the number of condoms anyone can take and are available from the counter. A spokesman for the company, which has over 60 stores nationwide, said that if stocks run out then they will be replenished if necessary.
Condoms are counted as a luxury item and are subject to the higher VAT rate with a box of 12 costing up to €20 which is considered too expensive for younger people by many health groups.
Commercial director for CarePlus Pharmacy, Niamh Lynch said: “Given the impact that STIs can have on people, it’s clear that price should not be a barrier to safe sex.
If we can draw attention to the matter by distributing free condoms this week, hopefully it might give rise to a discussion about whether they are still a luxury item in 2019.”
The government already reduced the VAT on condoms in 2008 from 21 per cent to 13.5 per cent.
The Irish Pharmacy Union says that the government should eliminate VAT on contraceptives to make them more affordable and accessible.
“There is currently a VAT rate of 13.5 per cent on condoms, which is counterproductive and goes against these ambitions. This is essentially a tax on safe sex,” said pharmacist and IPU member Catriona O’Riordan.
According to Sexualwellbeing.ie, condoms have a 98 per cent effective rate and are one of the best forms of contraceptive.
The rate of STI’s in Ireland increased by 5 per cent in 2017 with 7408 cases of chlamydia being recorded that same year. 15-24-year-olds account for 51 per cent of chlamydia cases.
Student David O’Beirne said “condoms are too expensive. Abroad they have been much more accessible for young people. They are not a luxury, they are a necessity and financial situation shouldn’t be a barrier to having safe sex.”
Image Credit: Alison Clair