Policy Factsheet

Condom Subsidies and Social Marketing Programs

Reasons for Policy

  • Widespread condom use can reduce the spread of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).1
  • Low income groups are at high risk for STDs and unwanted pregnancies, but are disproportionately burdened by high priced condoms and are less likely to purchase them.1
  • Adverse health consequences from sexual behavior, such as STD infections, are estimated to be at least threefold higher in the United States than in any other developed country.1

Community Groups

  • Community Colleges
  • Local Businesses
  • Local Public Health Department
  • Universities

Policy Components

  • Reduce the price of condoms through subsidies
  • Increase physical access by making condoms readily available in settings where high-risk sexual activity is common
  • Provide reproductive health information to reduce social constraints and increase awareness

Desired Outcomes

  • Sustained improvements in sexual health outcomes at the population level
  • Increased condom use among poor and vulnerable groups
  • Reduce inequities in condom access in high risk groups
  • Reduce unintentional pregnancies
  • Reduce STD transmission

Level of Evidence Available to Evaluate Effectiveness of Policy

For all policies we describe on this website, we have applied the Standards of Evidence as defined by Flay et al. (2005) in the Standards of Evidence document published by Prevention Science.

The effectiveness level of this policy is 2: Policies with Consistent Evidence from High-Quality Observational Studies.

The levels of effectiveness as noted are:

  1. meets criteria for policy effectiveness (consistent, positive outcomes from at least two high-quality experimental or quasi-experimental trials using a comparison group or interrupted time series design);
  2. consistent evidence available linking policy with positive outcomes from high-quality observational studies only;
  3. insufficient evidence available for policy or policy components.

Achievable Results

There is a consistent negative correlation between price and contraceptive sales. Condom prices set below 1% of per-capita gross national product for a year’s supply may achieve satisfactory prevalence for condoms in either a family planning or AIDS-prevention context.3

This evidence is based on studies conducted in developing countries and may not be generalizable to the United States, or other developed countries. More research is needed.

Community Examples

The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene implements NYC Condom a free condom initiative through its website.

The District of Columbia, Department of Health, HIV/AIDS Administration runs a free condom distribution program, Free Condoms for DC. Teachers and counselors may distribute condoms to students if they complete an online training course.

Links to Policy Examples

Rules of the City of New York, Title 24 Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, §3.01 General powers of the Department

District of Columbia Official Code, §7-1604 AIDS Program Coordination Office

† Be sure to check with your state, county, and municipal governments regarding potential existing laws that may impede any new policy development.


1 Ebrahim, SH, McKenna, MT, Marks, JS (2005). Sexual behavior: related adverse health burden in the United States. Sexually Transmitted Infections, 81, 38-40.

2 Flay, BR, Biglan, A, Boruch, RF, Ganzalez Castro, F, Gottfredson, D, Kellam, S, Moscicki, EK, Schinke, S, Valentine, JC, & Ji, P (2005). Standards of evidence: Criteria for efficacy, effectiveness and dissemination. Prevention Science, 6(3), 151-175.

3 Harvey, PD (1994). The impact of condom prices on sales in social marketing programs. Studies in Family Planning, 25(1), 52-58.