Monday marked the second annual Global Female Condom Day, a coordinated day of action where advocates worldwide voiced their support and demand for this unique dual protection tool.Why a special day dedicated to female condoms? What explains the outpouring of support? The short answer: sexually active women and men need access to a range of options to meet their varied prevention needs, and this rightfully includes female condoms. Yet for many people, female condoms are out of reach, despite the numerous benefits and advantages of this technology.
Significant advocacy remains critical to ensuring female condoms are brought to the public and private sectors in a meaningful way.
Female condoms are powerful tools for pleasure and prevention. Research indicates that female condoms are acceptable among diverse groups of women and men and are comparable to male condoms in their effectiveness in preventing unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV. Moreover, studies suggest that providing both female and male condoms as part of a comprehensive prevention strategy increases the overall number of protected sex acts because people have multiple choices for protection. Female condoms can also be cost-effective when compared to the costs of HIV treatment.
Photo © Danny Ngan
Female condom options and availability are expanding. The FC2, the only female condom approved by the USFDA, had record high global distribution in 2012, at 60 million units. The Cupid female condom gained World Health Organization (WHO) pre-qualification last year, enabling bulk procurement by public sectors, and is now available in a number of countries. The Woman’s Condom is in early introduction in China and South Africa, and is under review for WHO pre-qualification. Other female condoms are in various stages of the WHO pre-qualification process. Additionally, new receptive partner-initiated condoms are in the research pipeline, including one designed specifically for anal sex. The expansion in female condom variety will allow women and men to use the female condom they prefer and ultimately lead to increases in protected sex.
Significant advocacy remains critical to ensuring female condoms are brought to the public and private sectors in a meaningful way. So that’s what we are doing on Global Female Condom Day and beyond—advocates, researchers, NGOs and communities are rising up to help ensure that female condoms become available as a meaningful choice for women and men worldwide.
We are working to ensure that the communities we serve are well informed about female condoms and that people are able to access them in numbers equal to male condoms. We are pushing at city, state, country, and international levels for female condoms to be integrated into HIV, STI and family planning programming. We are advocating for female condoms alongside biomedical HIV prevention tools and long-acting contraceptives to ensure that women and men have a wider variety of options to meet their prevention and family planning needs. We are providing support to female condom manufacturers and communicating with regulatory bodies on review and approval of other female condom products. And we are looking forward to the results of the call from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for other innovations on condom products.
Our numbers are growing and we are making impact. Global Female Condom Day organizers, the National Female Condom Coalition and the Universal Access to Female Condoms (UAFC) Joint Programme, recruited individuals and organizations from over 50 countries to take action on September 16. Through organizing a variety of events—large and small—advocates contributed to a growing movement for greater awareness, access, and use of female condoms.
- In Kenya, South Africa, China, Nigeria, Cameroon, the Netherlands, and in several U.S. states advocates used films and created personal video messages to spark community conversations about the role female condoms can play in women’s and girls’ sexual health.
- American, Italian, Ugandan, and Zimbabwean female condom supporters took to the airwaves with educational messages about the protection offered by female condoms.
- In dozens of other countries around the globe, prevention educators hit hair salons, malls, and the streets to teach about female condoms.
- Advocates used social media to host online dialogues and share female condom facts with their friends, family, and colleagues.
Global Female Condom Day has passed, but female condom advocacy continues. Join us!