While the news in the U.S. these days is rife with debate about access to contraception, this is not a discussion you’ll have anywhere in France, and the topic hasn’t been on the table for decades. France has one of the highest contraceptive use rates in the world. Most oral contraceptives are covered by insurance, and in any case, are very inexpensive, generally from 2-10€ per month. The morning after pill and emergency contraception, as its name would imply, are available in pharmacies without a prescription. Unlike the US, where condom dispensers are hidden in mens bathrooms, they are to be found outside pharmacies (on almost every corner) for off-hour access and the Paris City Hall regularly has amusing campaigns to increase awareness of and protection against maladies sexuellement transmissibles (STDs).
Aids is no joke, the US has 1.2 million people living with AIDS, #8 in the world in the middle of the African states, while France is #33. AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is known as Sida (Syndrome Immunodéficitaire Acquis) in France and while heterosexual numbers have been dropping steadily, the gay population been more of a problem. Additionally, as reported recently by Forbes, a drug resistant gonorrhea “superbug” has become a worldwide threat due to overuse of antibiotics for mild illness’s and it’s use in animal feed.
The competition here in Paris seems to be between Durex (an English company) and Manix (French). No matter what your politics are concerning contraception, as a physician I think it is just good public policy to promote condom use. Condom ads here are a hoot, here are some good ones: