||Gabriel ADEYEMO [ profile ]
Female condoms slowly gaining popularity - report
Aug 14th, 2011 - 14:27:13
Long seen as the ugly step-child of HIV prevention, the female condom seems
to be gaining popularity through grassroots campaigns, according to a new
report by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA). "For the fourth consecutive year,
access to female condoms has increased dramatically, reaching a record
number of 50 million... in 2009," the report states... The organization
credits successful partnerships between governments and technical agencies
for helping to increase access to female condoms.
In 2005, UNFPA launched the Female Condom Initiative in 24 countries to
ensure that female condom programming was integral to national AIDS policies
and reproductive health programmes. "In a number of countries,
governments... are applying highly creative approaches to educating the
public about condoms and to overcoming the stigma and taboos sometimes
associated with them," the report's authors said. "In the process, they are
discovering that the female condom is a tool for women's empowerment,
enabling women and adolescent girls to take the initiative to protect their
own and their partners' health."...
Although not recommended for anal sex by the UN World Health Organization,
some health authorities have opted to market it for use by MSM. In a 2002 US
study, men reported more frequent problems with female condoms than male
latex condoms, particularly slippage, discomfort and rectal bleeding; the
authors recommended more research on the safety of female condoms for anal
Despite these gains, the female condom still lags behind the male condom in
popularity; according to UNFPA... In Kenya, female condoms are part of the
country's broader HIV and family planning programmes, but women have shown
little interest. The country recently received three million female condoms
from UNFPA and distributed them. "We do not have reliable data on
acceptability but we know that among sex workers there is a high demand,"
said Peter Cherutich, head of HIV prevention at the National AIDS and
Sexually transmitted infections Control Programme.
"Overall, the demand is low mainly due to gen eral unavailability and
information. "It is still more expensive and we are yet to be confident that
it is as widely popular as the male condom," he added. "Except for female
sex workers and highly empowered women, most other women do not have the
capacity to demand safe sex... the majority of women depend on their sexual
partners to protect them."
The UNFPA report noted that female condoms can cost as much as US$1 each
while male condoms are often distributed free of charge. In pharmacies in
Nairobi, a pack of three male condoms costs from about $0.20 to just over
$1. "In 2009, only one female condom was available for every 36 women
worldwide," the report states... Conversations with other Nairobians reveal
that ignorance about the female condom is still widespread... NASCOP's
Cherutich said the Kenyan government would need to market the female condom
in new ways to increase use. "We have not placed the female condom as a
family planning tool, which if we had, would make FC less stigmatizing since
family planning is now an accepted concept within family settings," he said.
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