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The invention of the female condom has helped to put power in the hands of women who now can exercise much more control over their own bodies. However, a major issue is the relatively high cost of the female condom. Checks at local pharmacies reveal that, on average, a pack of three female condoms costs about $400. By contrast, at the bottom end of the market, three male condoms cost $60. Quite a disparity!  Read more


Ever since the massive campaign of this female condom, it's getting more acceptability on the scene as more and more now carries the female conduct in their purse. And there are a lot of reasons why women prefers this condom.  Read more


For almost two decades, female condoms have been on the market, but because they have been called inconvenient and unnatuaral, many don't use them, preferring male condoms instead.  You may not know it, but a second generation of the female condom has been released, and some say they are more natural and user-friendly than previous versions.  Demonstrations are being offered on how to use them.  Read more


As a safe sex option, the female condom is lesser known and more expensive than the regular male condom. Both the female and the male condom function the same: It is a sheath that should be worn during sexual intercourse in order to prevent unintended pregnancy and to lessen the risk of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). If you are a woman who is at risk and cannot rely on your partner to use a condom, you should consider the female condom.  Read more






What I enjoyed most about my visit was that she took the extra step to offer me a contraceptive method other doctors have neglected to dispense - the female condom. Read more


A new device has been conceived and could add to the variety of choice, contributing thus to increase the overall protection if promoted:  a new type of female condom.  In order to test spontaneous opinions regaging this new condom, the latter has been presented to 318 women, in Brussels, chief town of Belgium, a country where the very concept of female condom is not known.  Read more


Many people don't realize the female condom exists. It's a thin, flexible plastic tube worn inside the vagina during sex. Read more


When AIDS first struck in the 1980s, it mainly affected men. Today, women account for about half of the 33 million people living with HIV worldwide, and 60 percent of those infected in sub-Saharan Africa. The large majority of these women acquired the virus through heterosexual intercourse, mostly through unprotected sex with their husbands or long-term primary partners.  Read more


The female condom is a thin, soft loose-fitting polyurethane plastic pouch that the lines the vagina. It has two flexible rings: an inner ring at the closed end, used to insert the device inside the vagina and to hold it in place, and an outer ring which remains outside the vagina and covers the external genitalia.  Read more


USAid senior health manager population office Sheila Macharia singled out shortage of female condoms as a barrier to birth control.

Ms Macharia said female condoms remained expensive, hence unaffordable. However, Macharia said with the risk of contracting HIV, demand for use of protection, and by extension the female condom, was growing. Read more


Have you heard about the female condom?  Female condoms (FCs) help prevent unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV. They can be used by both women and men for vaginal and anal sex. Read more


Move over fellas.  MNF no longer stands for Monday Night Football.  The Women's Collective have changed the game to Monday Night Females.  Ok. That’s corny. But last night’s discussion on female condoms was definitely focused on women.  The Women’s Collective hosted a lively and interactive discussion about the FC2 female condom FC2 female condom the cozyBrookland Cafe in Northeast. Read more


Though the condom we have today is basically the same as the condoms we remember throughout our lifetime, there is a rich history of the condom.  Read more


Believe it or not, the condom has been around for quite sometime now and history bears witness to its gradual evolution and is possibly on of the most ancient forms of unnatural birth control there is.  Read more


Earlier this week, the Female Health Company (FHC) announced approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the company's Female Condom (FC2), a woman-initiated barrier method that helps to protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), HIV/AIDS, and unintended pregnancy.  Read more


Contrary to popular belief, the condom has been around for quite at some point now and historical past bears witness to its progressive progression and is possibly one of the most old form of unnatural birth control there is. Read more




Women HIV/AIDS activitsts had their male counterparts in stitches when they revealed that the female condom was "not sexy" and is "taking away" their pleasure.
The women were debating among other items the female condom, HIV/Aids among women and sexual harassment in Harare at a consultative meeting organised by the National Aids Council (NAC).  Read more


Fifteen years after its debut, the female condom has failed to catch on with women and aid agencies, despite its potential as a powerful tool against AIDS and other sex-related diseases.  Read more


The South African sex work industry has released a new report that has shown the country's recent soccer World Cup did not fuel a rise in sex work - and that thousands of dollars may have been wasted on ill-tailored HIV prevention campaigns. Read more


Since 1999, more than 19 million female condoms have been supplied to 70 countries through an innovative public/private partnership brokered by UNAIDS in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The female condom is also promoted through the UN's programme addressing HIV/AIDS in the workplace.  Read more


Many in Namibia are still reluctant to use the female condom, a recent report by Nasoma, a social marketing organization has revealed. This is despite efforts by the organisation to promote the female condom's use and sales. Read more


My boyfriend doesn't like wearing condoms because he says the hurt.  But neither of us are ready to have a baby, and I don't want to go on the pill.  He says there's something like a condom for girls to wear.  Is this true?  How does that work? What does it look like? And where would I get one?  Read more


Given the figures in this study, the District's campaign to give away and encourage use of female condoms looks like money well spent. Based on these statistics, though, a ramped-up effort to encourage women to carry male condoms with them for their partners to use is probably just as good an idea. Read more


The female condom allows women to protect themselves from HIV and sexual transmitted infections (STIs).  First, it is important to recognize the vulnerability of women to STIs and HIV especially in developing countries.  Acoording to the AIDS Epidemic Update, 67% of people living with HIV wold wide are from Sub-Saharan African, and 60% of them are women.  This is due to sexual and physical violence.  Read more


The female condom is fairly awkward to use, it involves forward planning although it has been claimed that you can insert the condom 8 hours prior to intercourse and some women find it uncomfortable. Both versions of the condom are made of material that is less likely to cause an allergic reaction than latex and the materials can be used with both oil and water based lubricants. Read more


"Why can we not say no to our men? We African women need to learn from Western women how to say no." Read more


The female condom, first approved by the FDA in 1993 (CNN) has a lot of baggage with its name, many claiming that it is baggy and awkward, makes a lot of noise and just does not suit women as well as a male condom. Do you know how difficult it is to find a female condom? The female condom has been around for our generation to use but finding the condom at stores can be difficult and Whittier College seems to be devoid of them. Read more


During the past decades women have been at a higher risk of HIV infection than men. In the past, women never wore condoms during sexual intercourse. Today, high-level sensitization from health experts, government and private health institutions has increased awareness on the use of female condoms. Read more


Many women in Tanzania are unable to access female condoms five years after the product was introduced with objective to prevent Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI), including HIV/AIDS and unplanned pregnancies. Read more


FC Female Condom is intended to be worm by women during sex. It can help prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease, including AIDS (HIV infection).  Read more


As a female in charge of your contraception career, you may be on some form of low dose birth control to prevent pregnancy but are you doing all you can to make sure you’re protected from STDs? The FC2 offer protection and may be ideal if you prefer a non hormonal form of birth control. Read more


Women in Kerala seem to have given a big 'No' to female condoms even though it was launched in the state to give women the freedom to prevent unintended pregnancies and sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs). Read more


The Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH) has developed a new female condom product, the Woman’s Condom, which is currently being tested for efficacy in the United States. Read more


The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is seeking qualified institutions to conduct a study on female condom use. Read more


This is a video about the advantages of female condom.  See more


It’s Women’s Month, so let’s talk about sex. After all, if a woman isn’t sexually liberated, how can we  pretend she’s achieved equal status in society? This isn’t about the free-love of the 60s but about a woman’s basic right to protect her own body. Read more


For women over all, access to life-preserving HIV prevention and treatment services remains limited. Changing this means expanding the coverage of services and tackling the barriers - such as stigma and discrimination that inhibit women from using condoms. Need to monitor access to and sustained uptake of female condoms - markets, saloons etc. Diffuse stigma and fear that prevent women from using female condoms. Remove prices on female condoms to make them affordable. Read more


Female sex workers (FSWs) in Zanzibar are vulnerable to HIV infection and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) due to risky behaviors including low condom use (57.7%) reported at last sex with clients. We piloted a small scale intervention at a cost of $500 USD to introduce female condoms as a possible alternative way to increase condom use. Read more


South African Dr. Sonnet Ehlers has designed a new condom, appropriately named Rape-aXe. Also referred to as the "Condom with Teeth," this female condom is made of latex and is inserted like a tampon by a woman who fears that she may be raped. It seems that Dr. Ehlers was inspired to make this device over 40 years ago when, as a medical researcher at a hospital, she tended to a rape victim who said she had wished she had had teeth in her vagina. Read more


The Women´s Health project aims to assess female condom (FC) use among woman sex workers in different types of sex-establishments in typical rural and small urban towns in southern China. We report on two rural towns in Hainan Province.  Read more


Once many ways that they use to keep the harmony of a family partner. But sometimes they also do not feel comfortable with the tools they use to prevent pregnancy, here we will describe an alternative you can use to prevent pregnancy, but but maintain health and harmony of the couple. Read more


Certainly the female condom is less popular than the male condom, which is far more widely used and also much more widely available around the world. As the name suggests the female condom is to be used by the women, and may be inserted into the vagina prior to intercourse. Intercourse does not have to be interrupted for inserting the female condom; it can be inserted from before, as many as 8 hours before intercourse.  Read More


Before female condoms came, we heard several stories about some women in Bafoussam in particular, who cart away the sperms men deposited in their condoms under the pretext of going to discard in toilets or elsewhere but rather sell them to some businessmen for occultist use. I hear sperms are used in some industries as raw material for the manufacturing of some cosmetics. If this is true, I believe these women sell the sperms to agents of these companies. So you see why I can not go to bed with a woman who uses female condom. That can only happen on my dead body. Read more


As part of the programme to increase access to protective measures against HIV/AIDS virus infection to women, Indian government will widen the cheaper female condom distribution to more states. Read more


"In 1993, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave its stamp of approval to a then-novel item: the female condom.

"Yet according to the Center for Health and Gender Equity, in 2007 about 11 billion male condoms were circulated worldwide compared with 26 million female ones. Cost used to be an issue, but it is no longer: The $4 female condom has been replaced by the 82 cent one.  Read more


When the first female condoms were introduced in Uganda a few years ago, it came as good news to women. For them, it was an opportunity, for the first time, to be able to dictate condom use during sexual intercourse with their partners who sought unprotected sex. Unfortunately, the excitement was short-lived as that particular brand turned out to be a flop. Read more


Instead of the latex condoms which are used by men, partners now have the option of using female condoms before intercourse. Female condoms consist of a thin, loose-fitting lining which covers the vagina and prevents the permeation of semen during intercourse. There are two rings, an internal ring which fits inside the cervix and stabilizes the condom, and an outer ring covering the outer lip of the vagina. As with male latex condoms, the female condom is lined all throughout with non-spermicidal lubricant.  Read more


Like the male condom, the FC2 female condom is a safe and effective barrier against HIV and STDs. It's also great for partners that prefer a more natural-feeling during safer anal sex or ones that have an aversion to thick latex.  Read more


The female condom initially received approval in the U.S. in the early 1990s, shortly after its approval in Europe. It's been tenacious, though not a wide-spread success. I remember the earlier advertisements with Drew Barrymore as one of its spokepeople, and I think she had a college tour through which my sexual health counselors' group tried to get her to come visit our campus. Read more 


The female condom is the first barrier method for protection from sexually transmitted diseases that is completely under the control of the female partner. Female sexual health can now be fully protected even if the man is not wearing a condom during sexual intercourse. Read more


The female condom has come in for some criticism in the media in Zimbabwe in recent months, but experienced advocates are convinced that it is a product strongly desired by Zimbabwe citizens and a vital weapon in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Read more


Despite more than twenty years on the market, the female condom remains an elusive gem. Its use has not been disseminated as much as the male condom, despite offering several benefits. The fact that it can be inserted up to eight hours before intercourse gives you lots of freedom and means you can “enjoy the moment”. Read more


According to CNN, while some women's health advocates consider female condoms another option for women to protect themselves from STIs and prevent pregnancy, other experts question their practicality. For example, Alexandra Katehakis, a certified sex therapist and clinical director of the Los Angeles-based Center for Healthy Sex, said that compared with male condoms, female condoms are cumbersome to use and take too long to put on. Read more


There are so many birth control options these days that the mind boggles. There are various kinds of injections and patches and a plethora of pills. And of course, we also have the option of ensuring a man uses a condom. Read more


India is planning to expand supply of cheaper female condom across the country as a measure to control the spread of HIV among women. Read more



It's undeniable that having one more option for female health and safety during sex is a good thing.  And it does seem odd that their male counterpart is so popular, while the birth control pill serves as the major contraceptive for women, despite the fact that it does not protect against STIs and, without insurance, can be significantly more expensive.  Read more


The National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) has scaled up the female condom programme in four states- Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal and Maharshtra. Read more


Women today can make use of various types of contraception. Until recently, female contraception offered no protection against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). The appearance of the female condom changed the situation. Read more


They've been called noisy, unwieldy and like a plastic bag. Read more


Mail & Guardian  Friday

 29 July 2010
 

By FARANAAZ  PARKER.


 A small NGO is asking the Health Department why these contraceptives for women aren’t as readily available as their male equivalent.
 
 
More than a decade after it was introduced, the humble female condom remains a mystery to many South African women .Now a small NGO is building a case against the government to force the Health department to share information about what it has done to bring the female condom into the light. 

The female condom is the only female initiated method of preventing both pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. And although numerous studies have shown high acceptability of the product, irregular supply have prevented it from being mainstream.

In South Africa questions have been raised about the tender process .Condom importers say that tender documents favour one company, the United States based Female Health Company, which supplies the most commonly available female condoms, the FC2.Last week The Times reported that local condom importer Black Circle had sent lawyers` letters to the Minister of Health, demanding a review of the specifications of new tenders. 

This is nothing new to the Thohoyandou Victim Empowerment Programme (TVEP), which have been working since January on a national inquiry into the procurement, distribution and social marketing of the female condom in South Africa. TVEP Advocacy officer Tian Johnson is incensed by what he sees as the government`s lack of transparency and engagement on the issue. “Why isn`t there a clear, easy flow of information” he asked.

 Johnson said the report should be complete by the end of the year and that the group will ask the government for a “plan of action” for improving access to the female condom. ”We will make recommendations to government based on that report, which can be backed up by legal action if not taken up”. 

South Africa is one of the largest distributors of female condoms in the world, but the numbers are very low- about 3.5 million were distributed last year. In contrast, more than 350million male condoms are distributed annually. 

Pricing is certainly a barrier to increasing the number of female condoms in circulation. Male condoms cost about R1 each, whereas female condoms cost between R6 and R7 apiece. And resistance to the method goes further than that.” Globally there was always this concern: What if people prefer this method and it`s more expensive?” asked Mags Beksinska technical adviser at the maternal, adolescent and child health research cluster at Wits University.

 But advocates say that in a country with high HIV prevalence, it`s a programme worth pursuing. ”Research has shown that if you add female condoms to a male condoms programme, you get more condom users overall,” said Beksinska. 

One way to bring down the price of condoms is to increase competition by upping the number of products on the market. A wider variety of products could also increase acceptability of the female condom to women. But because only one product-the FC2-is approved for bulk buying by the World Health Organisation (WHO), there is little in the way of choice or competition. 

Different types of female condoms are slowly coming on to the market. The Reddy condom which has a sponge instead of an inner ring, have taken off in India and parts of Europe , and a new type of female condom known as Path is being tested in South Africa. But these variants are unlikely to get picked up by donors and government unless they have a WHO stamp of approval. Until then, only an increase in demand will bring down the prices.

 But irregular supply stymies demand for the product. Dave Nowitz product marketing director at the Society for Family Health (SFH), said supply chain management was a key   problem when SFH ran into social marketing programmes for the female condom. ”Every time we seemed to get things going, we`d run out of stock,” said Nowitz. This discouraged women from sticking with the product.

 ”If you are going to do it, you`ve got to do it properly and that means selling them at a reasonably price and make sure there is an ongoing supply,” he said.  


If the world wants to reduce new HIV infections by 50 percent by 2015, the United Nations said Wednesday, people will need about 13 billion condoms. The total needed does not include the other half of expected HIV cases, other sexually transmitted diseases or unwanted pregnancies.  Read more


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration FDA, approved the use of female condoms in 1993, however, its use by women of this country has not been overwhelming, with roughly 1.5 percent of the female population giving it a try.  That may change. Read more


The Washington AIDS Partnership today announced that the second phase of an innovative campaign to increase awareness and use of the female condom as a tool for HIV prevention will launch across the District this week. Read more


A city wide campaign in the HIV infested capital of America, Washington DC has been launched in an effort to convince women to try a new product for the preventions of pregnancy and of the deadly disease-a new and improved female condom. Read more


This video found out that many women in South Afrca prefer female condoms to normal condoms.  It spices up their lives and keeps them save from HIV/AIDS and unwanted pregnancies. Watch video


Charlene Cotton will talk to anyone about sex. Several days a week she stands behind a table decorated with a bowl of flavored condoms and safer sex pamphlets, calling to women passing on the street, "Come check out my table. Don't be scared." She asks: "Have you heard of the female condom?" Then, to show how it works, she picks up her demonstration kit—a condom and anatomical models. Read more


The Female Health Company provides FC2 Female Condoms funded by USAID through the USAID | DELIVER PROJECT implemented by John Snow, Inc. (JSI). Recently, JSI amended its contract for the supply of FC2 condoms from 12 million units to up to 24 million units for execution within fiscal 2011. USAID/JSI retains the right to further increase the order at their discretion. Read more


I’m so used to, and bored by, the bland white packaging that carries the underused female condom that at this year’s International AIDS Conference, I walked past several press releases and demonstrations of it without much interest. So it was with some surprise that I came upon a stand at the Global Village where a young woman was demonstrating the use of not one, but two versions of the female condom I had never seen before. Read more


These are just but a few of the enticements featured at the Condom Project stall at this year’s  18th International AIDS Conference, which opened on Sunday. The organisation, which is part of the larger Condomise Campaign, boasts a stall with an array of colourful condoms, genital lubricants and other aids which the general public are free to sample and taste. Read more


Female Condom maker Female Health Co. said Friday its board of directors approved a quarterly dividend of 5 cents per share.  Read more


Look let’s face, it the female condom hasn’t really received as much popularity as the male condom.

In Sub-Saharan Africa alone, 60% of adult males are HIV-positive; the female condom is available for only one in every 300 women. Shocking stats isn’t it? Read more


HIV and AIDS women's health advocates at the International AIDS Conference have criticized the lack of funding and policy support from international donors and governments for female condoms, which are a critical woman-initiated tool for fighting the HIV epidemic. Read more


With yesterday's announcement of a vaginal gel that can protect women from HIV transmission with a 39 percent success rate, women have a reason to cheer. Given that women account for 60 percent of all HIV infections in Sub-Saharan Africa, it is a cheer that is long overdue. And while we celebrate the announcement, we are also asking for more. Read more


Tian Johnson on what the latest Microbicide Gel results mean for Female Condom Advocates. Session will be at the Stop AIDS Now stand in the Global Village at the Vienna AIDS Conference 2010.


The Treatment Action Campaign cautiously welcomed the development of a new anti-Aids gel for women on Tuesday.  Read more


Campaigners on Tuesday lamented the fact that the female condom, just as effective as its male equivalent, has failed to gain the profile it deserves in the fight against AIDS. Read more


For the first time, a vaginal gel has proved capable of blocking the AIDS virus: It cut in half a woman's chances of getting HIV from an infected partner in a study in South Africa. Scientists called it a breakthrough in the long quest for a tool to help women whose partners won't use condoms. Read more


I’m honored to speak at the XVIII International AIDS Conference in Vienna today. This conference marks an important turning point in the fight against AIDS. There are good reasons to be hopeful – we have seen amazing progress. The number of people getting treatment for AIDS has increased twelve-fold since 2003. The people at this conference and major partners such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and PEPFAR have helped make this possible. Read more



 The Department of Health is being taken to task over three tenders for 14.5 million female condoms, in a row that threatens to spill over into the courts. There is a shortage of female condoms in the country, partly due to delays caused by complaints that state tenders were biased in favour of one manufacturer.  Read more



As I sit in the production office of the new television pilot I am working on, I keep thinking about all of you in Vienna, including my friend Tears. My plan was to be with her – and with all of you – at the International AIDS Conference but unfortunately work has kept me away.  Read more
 


"Taking Charge Of What's Inside" a demonstration at the youth pre conference on how to use a female condom.

Source:  You Tube
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0F6BgVPdgLY


Bliss, the female condom, has been growing in popularity since it was launched in Botswana in 2001, but that hasn't stopped its critics from labeling it too big, too noisy and difficult to insert. Some have even suggested the government should stop supporting it.

But its advocates insist that the female condom is a valuable option for couples wanting to prevent unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections.

The International AIDS Conference is also a reminder that, with an HIV prevalence rate of just over 17 percent, Botswana is not in a position to relax about the epidemic.

Bliss is the local brand name of the FC Female Condom, which is distributed in more than 120 countries around the world. Some 825,000 female condoms have been marketed at a subsidized price in Botswana since 2006, when the government showed its commitment by removing the VAT from condoms, and demand is rising.

The female condom is also distributed free of charge by the government, through the Central Medical Stores. In 2008 alone, 370,000 female condoms were distributed free.

One of the organizations backing the condom is SUPPORT, which to provide technical assistance to governments, international organizations and NGOs that distribute the female condom. It aims to ensure that the female condom is available alongside the male condom in programs promoting sexual and reproductive health.

Dr. Katy Pepper, director of SUPPORT, says the key to acceptance lies in communication. "Where people have information and support in using female condoms, they are very popular, and that's what is creating the demand."

Moreover, she says, once couples get used to the female condom, they find it easy, convenient and comfortable, and quite a few prefer it to the male version.

"The FC2 Female Condom is the same length as the male condom, but slightly wider so that it comfortably lines the woman's vagina," she said. "It is not designed to tightly cover the man's penis."

Too noisy? Well, "sex is always noisy," Dr. Pepper said, and that complaint mainly centered on the first generation female condom. "But the second generation FC2 Female Condom is made from a soft synthetic rubber which is quieter than the original, so it is not able to make that noise."

Inserting the female condom easier with practice, and it is recommended that woman practice putting it in two or three times to get used to it. Once inside, it does not need to be held in place at all.

Dr. Pepper also sought to reassure people who worry that the female condom might somehow become lost inside the woman's body. The female condom has a ring that stays outside the woman's body, so that the it partly covers the woman's external parts, giving extra protection, and a smaller ring that stays inside just before the entrance to the womb. "It is simply not possible for it to go any further inside," she said.

The female condom recently received support from an unexpected source. The advice doctor in Glamour magazine, Dr. Kate O'Connell, wrote that when she tried the female condom, inserting it "wasn't as tricky" as she expected.

In terms of strength, the synthetic rubber used in the female condom is stronger than the natural latex that most male condoms are made of, and it has some other advantages as well.

Natural latex can cause an allergic reaction in some people, and cannot be used with oil-based lubricants, which cause it to break down.

"The female condom, on the other hand, can be used with any type of lubricant, either water-based or oil-based."

Some critics have called for a microbicidal gel, which they say would be an attractive solution to prevent the transmission of STIs and HIV.

Dr. Pepper agreed that "the more choices there are, the more people are protected."

But it will be at least five to seven years before a safe and effective product is available. "It would be wonderful, but no product is a magic bullet. Some women may not want to put a gel into their bodies."

One thing that critics and advocates agree on is that, female condoms are available now and that potential user of the female condom need to be helped along with education and information on how to use it properly.

"It can't just be given to people," Dr. Pepper said. "It needs to be understood, what it is and how to use it. We give skills to both men and women to give them a choice.

"It is a product that women can use to protect themselves. Along with the male condom it is the only barrier protection method that protects against unintended pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections and HIV.

"Research shows that when both male and female condoms are available, more sex acts are protected. There are some men who refuse to wear the male condom, and they prefer the woman to wear one because it leaves them free and open to do what they want to do anyway."

Source:  Global Health Magazine
4/07/2010


Fifteen years after the female condom was first introduced, very few people even know of its existence. One would think that the silent genocide being perpetrated by holding back this life saving option would have received the attention that it so deserves. ….


In 2008, TVEP, a rural based women’s rights organization located in one of South Africa’s most under resourced provinces, Limpopo, embarked on a training programme that sought to impart information to village women on the importance and correct use of the Female Condom.   As the only woman initiated tool that has been proven to be effective in the prevention of HIV, STI’s and unplanned pregnancies, it seemed clear that this technology should be a key feature of South Africa’s response to the epidemic which for years has had and continues to have a black, female, unemployed face.   The training also sought to position Female Condom use as “sexy” for both women and men, essentially turning the device into a sex toy and winning half of the “bedroom power battle.”

After training more than 70 women and men on the Social Marketing of the Female Condom , TVEP began to receive complaints from the “Female Condom Ambassadors”… “Where can we get this Female Condom we are now excited about?”….” The clinic has none, the hospital only gave me three….”   As an organization that was for the last seven years, fairly politically naïve, after several calls and enquiries to Government Departments at all levels, we found ourselves having to look at the bigger, more contentious issue of Female Condom Programming in South Africa,  that of procurement. Always a sensitive topic in a country plagued by tender irregularities and mismanagement of public funds, we then realized that South Africa’s National Strategic Plan (2007 – 2011) contained provision for the purchase of 425 million male condoms yet only THREE million female condoms!!.   As in the rest of the world, patriarchy is not unique to South Africa, and after encountering a range of responses from the Government’s Department of Health ( female condoms are too expensive, women don’t like them, how many men ‘like’ the male condom?, women don’t demand them etc etc) we decided that the time was now to spark National debate around this issue.   More than 78 National NGO’s convened at South Africas first National Dialogue on Universal Access to Female Condoms and one thing was clear : everyone agreed that the female condom was a key tool in the HIV Prevention Battle. The countries own Human Rights Commission called the lack of affordable access to Female Condoms, a human rights violation.   A declaration was adopted that contained several commitments to support the struggle for Universal Access to Female Condoms in South Africa. To date TVEP , unfortunately remains one of the only South African NGO’s that has Female Condoms at the core of its advocacy work.  

The Audit.
 

In 2009, TVEP took a decision to facilitate a National Audit into the Procurement, Distribution and Social Marketing of the Female Condom in South Africa.  

Procurement
  The procurement environment in South Africa is flawed, with tender guidelines effectively excluding all but one manufacturer of Female Condoms from securing the contract. This has resulted in several court actions being brought to have the tender nullified. As a direct result of this we have seen persistent National shortages of Female Condoms. TVEP is currently looking into legal action against the National Department of Health and Treasury in this regard to ensure that the procurement environment is transparent, accountable and competitive to ensure reduction in the “high costs” of saving womens lives!  

Social Marketing
  This aspect of the Audit will document the extent to which Government (as well as civil society) has failed in the promotion of this life saving technology. The  audit will cover an analysis of public nurses training curricula, home based caregiver training content as well as Governments communications systems on HIV Prevention in general and Female Condoms in particular.   This audit is underway and the final report is due for circulation at the end of 2010.   Now, with the Soccer World Cup a few days away we wonder how far we as womens rights activists need to go to ensure that this critical life saving (and sexy!) disease prevention tool remains on the agenda, an agenda free of profiteering, corruption and power games that strip away yet another option that women have to ensure a healthy, productive life , not only for themselves but for their children, partners and communities as a whole.   As long as the Female Condom remains of the Governments radar, the efforts to stem the tide of the disease will have minimal impact and both civil society and Government continue to be the failed heroes of the struggle for health rights for all. Perhaps that’s not such a bad thing, perhaps WE will be the new heroes that take up this struggle, on behalf our mothers, sisters and daughters who die needlessly from a preventable disease but are denied the tools to protect themselves.

We should be ashamed, shouldn’t we?

Some quotes from previous and current “leaders” on HIV Prevention that , if taken seriously and backed by sufficient political will, I might not be writing this article !


Barbara Hogan : "It was imperative to get ahead of the curve of this epidemic 10 years ago," she said.


"We all have lost ground. It’s even more imperative now that we make HIV prevention work….” 


South Africa’s Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, “…let me assure you that government of South Africa will continue to support research into microbicides as well as to procure and distribute large numbers of female condoms. 20th August 2009 , SANAC Women’s Sector Prevention Summit  

South Africa’s Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe answering a question in parliament “ With regards to the prevention of new HIV infections, Government and all SANAC sectors are rolling out targeted prevention programmes to ensure that those who are HIV negative remain so. Examples of these are: social mobilization; information, communication and education programmes; risk reduction campaigns, the provision of male and female condoms, the treatment of sexually transmitted infections and the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission programmes.”
9th September 2009, Parliament

Its times like this that I wish I could use our World Cups pay off line… “Ke Nako,,,,Its Time! “