By Nelly Lukale, SRHR Champion- YWCA of Kenya.
Young people’s need for integrated family planning, sexual and reproductive health and Rights and HIV prevention services, is one of the great challenges facing many youth today. The most affected groups are the youth from marginalized groups, who may be particularly vulnerable to sexually-transmitted infections, including HIV, and other reproductive health issues.
As a participant at the 3rd International Conference on Family Planning in Addis Ababa Ethiopia, my main interest was prevention of unplanned pregnancies, STIs and HIV/AIDS by use of a female condom as a method of family planning. I attended a two day workshop on universal access to Female condom organized by the Universal Access to Female Condoms (UAFC). I was keen on learning the different types available on the market, manufacturers, how to use it and not forgetting demonstrating what I learned to my fellow participants. That is how to use a female condom.
UAFC which is a joint Programme started in 2008 with the aim to make female condoms accessible, affordable and available for all. Different organizations have combined knowledge and expertise in working with civil society organizations, supply chain management and procurement, advocacy on sexual and reproductive health and rights and international politics. The main reason to set up the UAFC Joint Programme was to break the long-time inertia of the accessibility of female condoms at an affordable price and in a sustainable manner. Existing barriers in providing women and men access to female condoms were: the high procurement price, the lack of competition on the female condom market as well as the lack of programming in many countries.
This word Female Condom seems to be a name that is not so common among methods of contraceptives but believe it or not it exists but not used by many due to misunderstanding of how it is used, its high price, who should use it and where it can be found. It is a barrier method made out of a soft thin material, like the male condom, but it can only be worn by a woman.
September 16th of every year marks the annual Global Female Condom Day, a day when education and advocacy to increase awareness, access, and use of female condoms is passed across the globe. Some women still complain that it’s too big and hard to insert but the good news is that there are smaller, thinner and easy to use female condoms coming on the market now. This is the only women -initiated method available that offers dual protection from unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV/AIDS. Studies show that it is at least as effective as the male condom in reducing the risk of contracting STIs and can reduce the probability of HIV infection by 97%. The first time I learnt about a female condom I was in great shock and just imagined its size and how it would remain inside me or even fit. This was until I attended female condom training and learned that it’s so easy and effective to use. Its gives a woman more power to decide about protecting her health.
The female condom easily heats up to body temperature, is highly lubricated and it can stimulate the man due to the inner ring or sponge and can be inserted a few hours before intercourse so that couples do not have to think about a condom at the last minute when the fire is already on. Several types of female condoms are manufactured today but not all are available in different countries especially Africa. The readily available and accessible one is the FC2.
Young people mostly young women in Africa are vulnerable to unintended pregnancies that can seriously affect their health, education and any other opportunities in life and the only way to address this is to make available, accessible and affordable effective family planning programs that are not only fundamental to maternal health, but allow women and families to better manage household and natural resources, secure education for all family members, and address each family member’s healthcare needs. Female condoms and been recognized by different organizations as a vital tool for improving maternal health globally. Promoting the female condom is a cost-effective intervention, particularly given the high cost of HIV treatment and other prevention interventions if used correctly and consistently.
Some few facts about female condoms include:
- The female condom is not just for women but for people of all
- The female condom can actually increase pleasure for both partners as it adjusts to body temperature during sex, creating a natural and intimate feel, and increased stimulation from the outer ring.
- The female condom offers increased protection against STIs by covering the external genitalia.
- Female condoms have no side effects and also come latex-free.
- Female condoms do not require a prescription or clinician involvement, and provide non-hormonal dual protection from unintended pregnancy, and STIs, including HIV.
- Two different female condom products are currently WHO/UNPFA prequalified (FC2 and Cupid1) with various other products in development.