France to make male contraception free for people under 26

French President Emmanuel Macron announced a new policy of making male contraceptives free for people under 26 years old. The young adults will not need a doctor’s prescription anymore as they will be able to get them freely from pharmacies around France. The newly announced movement sets in action in the beginning of January 2023 and has a goal to promote sexual health in the fight against STDs and unwanted pregnancies. 

A feature story by Dobromir Muladzhikov

A Photoshop edit of the Eiffel Tower. Picture by Dobromir Muladzhikov, Picture Items by Unsplash & Pexels (CottonBro Studios, Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition, Deon Black)

They say that Paris is the city of love, but love is a factor of many events, whether in one’s mentality or physical world. Keeping a healthy body, while maintaining a sexual life in a world of “hookup culture” can be quite nerve-wrecking for some. However, do not fret, as the president of France, Emmanuel Macron, announced that from the first of January 2023, male contraceptives in the form of condoms will be made free without any prescription from a doctor needed. This campaign affects all French people aged under 26 years old who have a Social Security Card, which is the equivalent of a french health insurance. “It’s a small revolution for prevention, ” mentions Macron in a Twitter video he uploaded on December 9th 2022.

Medical Sexual Health Center “Cavé” – Centre de santé sexuelle Cavé. Picture by Dobromir Muladzhikov

As one would travel through the street of Cave 16 in the 10th arrondissement in Paris, they will be met with the sight of a local Medical Center for Sexual Health called “Cavé.” A center that focuses on educating young French people about sexual health. 

Anna, a professional trained midwife and nurse from the Medical Center mentions that contraceptives have always been free for people under 18 with a doctor’s prescription. However, it has become very hard for people with lower financial abilities to provide contraception for themselves, which is why the age limit got extended to 26. “Only if you have a prescription from a doctor can you get contraceptives such as birth control and the morning after pill, because they require an examination  before you take them. With condoms, people under 26 can get them by just presenting their social security card to a pharmacy,” says Anna. In addition, she also mentions that many can come to authorized sexual health centers like this and “take condoms without needing the Social Security Card.” One of the reasons behind this new measure, is doctors trying to minimize hospital visits for contraceptives, while the waves of COVID-19 are still lingering.  

According to an interview with Martin Bureau from Agence France-Presse,done by The New York Times, it is stated that French health authorities notice that sexually transmitted infections have been on the rise as a result of a decline in the use of prevention methods as well as unwanted pregnancies. “People between 15 and 24 represent 40% of young adults who suffer from STDs in France,” says Louise Delavier, a communications representative of The Women’s Association Against Violence “En Avant Toute(s)”, which heavily supports the new campaign for free contraception. Despite the contaminations and measures of the government to reduce these rates, many young French people as well as French immigrants neglect the importance of regular STD tests and medical screenings. Delavier adds on that there are still a lot of young people who feel ashamed to ask and to talk about intimacy in general.  

Condom Graphic Design Art at “Cavé.” Picture by Dobromir Muladzhikov

Recently posted research by the HIV-STI Public Health Bulletin from December 2022, shows that high rates of chlamydia infection were on the rise in 2021 compared to a decrease in 2020. The rates were even higher than the ones in 2019 (+9%). The vast majority of patients have been infected through heterosexual intercourse (about 80%), based on data from screenings at private laboratories in France. In addition to the rise of chlamydia, gonococcal and syphilis infections also portrayed higher numbers of infected people in 2021, compared to the decrease in 2020 and even higher than the record numbers in 2019 (+6% for Gonorrhea; +3% for Syphilis). “STDs are a huge part of sexuality whether we like it or not. People need to learn how to be safe,” says Anna. 

This speaks for a broader, deeper problem situated in the very beginning of youth education. Anna. claims that the interventions in the schools are not really equal. “Some schools really value sexual education, but others don’t. Sexual education for young people aged 13-14 is mainly done once a year.,” she says. Delavier concludes that “The main problem is funding.” Contrary to popular belief, many schools do not receive the appropriate financial support in order to organize more sexual education sessions for children. The consequences mainly portray themselves in the overall general health of adolescents and young adults. 

The women’s association against violence “En Avant Toute(s)” welcomes the new measures, however Ms. Delavier states that facilitating alternatives is a good way to make a change, “but it is not enough.” While contraception mainly weighs on women, Louis states that one of the most important goals to take into consideration is “to help boys and men to feel more involved, and to carry more mental responsibility when it comes to contraception.” Henceforth, free male condoms for everyone under 26 without prescription from a doctor.  

On the other hand however, the new campaign introduced by Macron gives hope in the future for many sexual health centers, organizations and youth around France. It facilitates adolescents and young adults to feel more heard and their needs more valid. It promotes the importance of safe sexual activities and physical well being as well as opening people to the possibility of free STD testing. Delavier describes this campaign as a “social and symbolic measure.” And while this course of action received thousands of positive reactions from people all over France and the world, there is still room for improvement. “An efficient and logical movement, but it has to be more popularized” concluded Anna.