We went to a conference last week, and learned all about the new version of the female condom, designed to empower women and provide an option for safe sex that women can control. While the female condom had existed before, this second version is made from superior material, and is less costly, making it a safe and accessible option for everyone. Because of the less expensive but equally effective material, the new FC2 female condom could decrease the instances of HIV/AIDS in developing countries and also save thousands of dollars spent on the treatment of those who become infected.
The female condom empowers women to protect themselves against STIs and HIV/AIDS. The female condom is inserted before sex – most women insert the condom 2 to 20 minutes beforehand. Because the female condom covers a larger area than traditional condoms, it may protect against Herpes and HPV. Planned Parenthood talks about its benefits a bit more in depth here.
According to an Associated Press article from April, “an early version of the female condom was introduced in 1993, and it remains the only available woman-initiated form of protection against both STDs and unintended pregnancy. Yet despite global promotion by the United Nations and other organizations, its usage is still minuscule, even as women bear an ever-growing share of the AIDS epidemic.”
“About 35 million female condoms were distributed worldwide last year, but that compares to more than 10 billion male condoms, which are far cheaper and, at least initially, easier to use. However, in some nations with high HIV rates, many men refuse to wear condoms, putting women at risk.”
“The FC2 had been accepted previously by some international organizations, and the Female Health Co. distributed 14 million of them abroad last year along with 21 million of the older version. Advocates of the female condom praised the FDA announcement because it opens the door for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), one of the largest global providers of condoms, to distribute the FC2 overseas.”
“Resistance is less of a problem in some developing nations. The U.N. Population Fund, government agencies and nonprofits are aggressively promoting female condoms in places such as Brazil, Ghana, Zimbabwe and South Africa.”
“Women’s groups in Zimbabwe collected more than 30,000 signatures demanding access to the female condom. In Ghana, nonprofits say more than 10,000 people have attended training programs that teach women how to insert female condoms — they require careful instruction to be used properly — and how to negotiate with their male partners.”
“The mindset is changing, but there are still a lot of challenges,” said Bidia Deperthes, the Population Fund’s HIV technical adviser for condoms. “Accessibility is still minimal. There’s a huge demand, and we’re not meeting it.”
“Another challenge is a stigma associated with the female condom in some places because prostitutes are among those deemed to benefit most from using it. On the other hand, advocates of the female condom say it has invaluable safe-sex potential for married women whose husbands are unfaithful and shun male condoms.”
“Serra Sippel, executive director of the Center for Health and Gender Equity in Washington, said FDA approval of the FC2 is a key step toward “putting the power of prevention in women’s hands.” But she bemoaned the product’s limited over-the-counter availability.”
“We’d love to see the profile raised, to have commercials about it and normalize it so people aren’t embarrassed,” she said.
“The female condom’s advocates stress that it will never be the “magic bullet” that by itself turns the tide in fighting AIDS. But, they say, it should be a bigger part of the arsenal.”