Report Says Female Condoms Effective But Underused Because of Insufficient Marketing, Investment
Studies have repeatedly shown that female condoms are widely accepted and that many women prefer them to male condoms, but the hesitance of policy makers to promote and invest in their use has hindered their ability to protect women from HIV/AIDS, according to an Oxfam report presented Thursday at the XVII International AIDS Conference in Mexico City, Toronto's Globe and Mail reports.
According to the 33-page report, titled "Failing Women, Withholding Protection," there are about three billion male condoms sold worldwide annually, compared with about 26 million female condoms. "This is a 15-year scandal born of ignorance and inertia," Honorary Oxfam President Mary Robinson said, adding, "We now know that millions of women might have been spared HIV, unwanted pregnancies, and empowered themselves in the process, if they had access to this simple method."
Carlos Zarco, director of the Mexican HIV/AIDS advocacy group Rostros y Voces, said, "The female condom is 18 times more expensive than a male condom. It's obvious why women are not using it more" (Picard, Globe and Mail, 8/8). Farah Karimi, director of Oxfam Novib, the Dutch arm of the group, said policy makers and donors believe the lack of investment in female condoms to be a result of low demand, but if more governments bought the contraceptives, promoted their use and invested more in the development of a lower-cost version, demand would rise dramatically (PlusNews, 8/7).
The report also states that an additional $20 million investment would result in two newer models being brought to market quickly and that the subsequent competition would lower prices (Globe and Mail, 8/8). Robinson said, "It is about the right for women to have access to protection and their right to make choices for themselves. Schools should be teaching boys and girls about the female condom but, sadly most of them are not." Karimi said, "The male condom was promoted so hard in advertising, through school education n and advocacy -- we need the same effort for the female condom" (PlusNews, 8/7).
Kaisernetwork.org was the official webcaster of the XVII International AIDS Conference in Mexico City.