Every woman and man has the right to sexual and reproductive health. A growing number of women and men in developing countries have a need for family planning and HIV prevention. The UAFC Joint Programme was set up to answer this growing need and make the female condom widely available. An added advantage of the female condom is that it is woman-initiated. Having more control over their own bodies and sexuality makes women less vulnerable.
The female condom
The female condom is the only available female initiated method that provides protection against STIs, including HIV, and against mistimed or unwanted pregnancies. Female condoms can be inserted by women themselves before sexual intercourse and therefore using the female condom does not need the same degree of cooperation from partners as is the case with the male condom. It needs to be negotiated only once.
Once a woman’s partner has agreed to use the condom, the woman can simply insert it before having sex and she does not need to negotiate with her partner about prevention methods in the heat of the moment. Therefore, the female condom enables women to have control over their sexual health. This is especially important in developing countries where many women and girls carry the burden of unprotected sex.
The female condom is a highly accepted prevention method among women and men. Besides benefits for women, men’s sensation of sex with a female condom comes closer to having sex without a (male) condom.
Photo: Guus Schoonewille
Demand of female condoms
Today the female condom is the only female-initiated prevention method that provides double protection – against both pregnancy and disease. Two hundred million women around the world do not have access to contraceptives and one third of all pregnancies are unintended (and many unwanted). In sub-Saharan Africa, where 61% of all new HIV infections occur among women, the female condom provides a method that can help to reduce these alarming numbers.
Despite its huge potential for the prevention of STIs including HIV and unwanted pregnancies the female condom is still not widely available, accessible and affordable as a prevention method. Though the female condom has been on the market since 1993, there still is doubt about the demand. To prove this demand and make female condoms available for all, the Universal Access to Female Condom (UAFC) Joint Programme started two large scale female condom programmes in Nigeria and Cameroon.
UAFC Joint Programme
The UAFC Joint Programme is a 4-year program (2009-2011) that aims to:
- decrease the number of unwanted pregnancies and, subsequently, decrease the number of maternal deaths (MDG 5);
- decrease the number of STIs, including HIV (MDG 6);
- promote gender equality and women empowerment (MDG 3).
The UAFC Joint Programme is a partnership between four Dutch organizations: Oxfam Novib, Rutgers WPF, i+solutions and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
On the level of the country programs partnerships are established between NGOs, governmental organizations, community based organizations and faith based organizations, private sector and multilateral organizations like the UNFPA.
For the large-scale female condom program in Nigeria UAFC Joint Programme works with the Society for Family Health (SFH) and in Cameroun, Association Camerounaise pour le Marketing Social (ACMS).
At the International Conference "Prevention, Pleasure and Protection" UAFC launched its latest publication. The book "Making female condoms available and accessible, a guide on implementing female condom programs" is an important and concrete result of the work of UAFC and its partners.
Furthermore, UAFC produced a toolkit for advocacy for female condoms: 'Make a move: advocating for the female condom'.