Female condom makes a comeback but will women use it?
Posted Monday, October 14 2013 at 00:00
It has previously been described as noisy and uncomfortable to use. However, campaigners are now moving to promote the new female condom dubbed FC2. They say the improved version of the condom is another tool to empower and protect women from sexually transmitted infections as well as pregnancy.
Every year on September 26, Uganda joins the rest of the world to commemorate the World Contraceptive Day. While the major aim of most of these contraceptives is to prevent unplanned pregnancies, some of them like the condoms also protect people from contracting sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and HIV/Aids.
However, condoms had always been a reserve for men. But 20 years ago, a female condom dubbed Female Condom 1 (FC1) was introduced on the global market and later in Uganda. The coordinator of the condom unit at the Ministry of Health, Ms Vashta Kibirige explained that the female condom was introduced on the Ugandan market because women wanted a procedure within their control and needed more choices for prevention of both pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.
The communications coordinator of the Uganda Health Marketing Group (UHMG), Ms Ritah Mwagale, which has been at the forefront of promoting the female condom explains that it aims to encourage women to have power, and be able to make decisions regarding their reproductive health and rights.
“They should not sit and wait for their partners to decide for them,”she explains.
However, while the female condom was seen as a good initiative and invention, it had a number of shortcomings that made it unpopular. Mwagale explains: “It was not received well because of the noise it made during sex.”
She states that because of these inadequacies, the World Health Organisation (WHO) decided to work with partners like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States to invent a better version of the female condom.
This led to the birth of the Female Condom 2 (FC2) in October 2009.
Advantages of FC2
Mwagale explains that manufactures used the previous technology that was used to make the FC1 and modified it to make the FC2.
“So the issues of noise have been greatly reduced. More so, the material used to make the FC1 was called polyurethane, which was causing the noise but now the FC2 has been improved and they use a material called Nitrile,”she notes.
Mwagale adds that changing the material also helped reduce the price of the condom and it can be used by people who are allergic to latex.
Currently, there is an ongoing campaign to promote this new brand dubbed, “If it is not on, it is not safe”. And as Mwagale explains, the campaign aims at positioning the female condom as the best option for women because they are the most vulnerable to HIV/Aids.
The 2011 Uganda Health Demographic Survey indicates that there are almost 57,000 women living with HIV/Aids in the country, meaning the epidemic has a female face in the country.
On top of that, when it comes to family planning, women have minimal say, yet according to the survey, condom use among men is at only 2.7 per cent.
“So the female condom is being positioned as an option for women and couples to protect themselves from unplanned pregnancies and STIs because the female condom works just as well as the male condom. We are promoting it as a way of ensuring that women are empowered,” Mwagale adds.
“If you look at the HIV statistics and the unplanned pregnancies, this condom gives women power to have control over their reproductive health and also have an option that will work for them.”