France will make condoms available for free in pharmacies for anyone under 25 from next year, President Emmanuel Macron announced on Friday.
The move, which comes as high inflation squeezes household budgets, aims to fight a rise in sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) among young people.
The measure was initially aimed at young adults aged 18 to 25, but Macron, who described it as "a small revolution in prevention," said on Friday the free condoms would be available to minors too.
Details of the plan are not yet known, nor do we have any estimate of its cost.
French health authorities estimate that the rate of STDs across the country increased by about 30 per cent in both 2020 and 2021.
Condoms prescribed by a doctor or a midwife are already reimbursed by French Social Security since December 2018, as part of efforts to fight against AIDS and STIs.
Condoms are also free for minors with a medical prescription or those who request them at a school infirmary.
But these schemes are still largely unknown: only 21 per cent of minors and 29 per cent of 18-24-year-olds are aware of them, according to the French president’s office.
'Let's do it'
Macron had initially said condoms would be free in pharmacies for anyone 18-25 starting January 1.
But after a French TV presenter and others challenged him on social networks over why the measure did not include minors, the president agreed to expand the program.
“Let's do it,” Macron said in a selfie video that he shot from the sidelines of a summit in Spain.
He later tweeted: “A lot of minors also have sex... they need to protect themselves too.”
STIs such as chlamydia and gonorrhoea are on the rise among young people, particularly among men aged 15 to 29 – with a 45 per cent increase between 2017 and 2019, according to national data.
In 2021, the number of new HIV diagnoses has also stagnated at around 5,000.
Macron has previously set a goal of "zero new HIV infections" in France by 2030 and the elimination of STIs "as major public health problems".