A new factsheet on female condoms written by Lucie van Mens, of the Universal Access to Female Condom Joint Programme (UAFC) and Ilze Smit, of the World Population Foundation, has been released – you can get the PDF here or read the blog post version here. The International Women’s Health Coalition is a member of the UAFC platform, and I’ve had some firsthand experience with the new initiatives around female condoms, which I saw during recent trips to Senegal, Burkina Faso, and Cameroun. While I was in Cameroun I met with two of the UAFC coordinators and the Society for Women Against AIDS in Africa, Cameroun Chapter (SWAAC). SWAAC will be partnering with this initiative in Cameroun.
The UAFC has officially launched this project in 3 countries: Cameroun, Nigeria and Mozambique. They will be distributing upwards of 1 million female condoms (FCs) in these countries as well as thousands of small pelvic models to use for demonstration purposes. I was also informed that the third generation of the female condom, the PATH condom that has a sponge inside it, will be available for distribution, at least in Cameroun and I believe the other 2 pilot countries as well, in July. The PATH condom has a more rigid external ring than other versions of the FC. It stays in place so the woman does not have to hold the condom down while the penis is being inserted – that was a huge barrier for a lot of women with the FC1 and FC2. The fourth generation of female condoms, which has a dissolving capsule that looks a bit like a tampon, won’t be available until 2011.
In the meantime, the UAFC project is working on developing more alternatives to these four condoms so that women have more choices. The goal isn’t necessarily to make a better product (although that’s always in mind of course) but really to give women more to choose from. They focus a lot on marketing and making it more appealing to women as well as advocating for getting production costs lowered.
Check out our recent video about female condoms, demand and distribution:
Jen Wilen is the Assistant Program Officer of Francophone Africa at the International Women’s Health Coalition. Read her bio here.