By: Nienke Blauw, Universal Access to Female Condoms (UAFC) Joint Programme
Today, September 12, 2012 is the first ever Global Female Condom Day. Thousands of individuals and organizations from over 21 countries will join this event, initiated by several female condom advocates and coordinated by the US-based National Female Condom Coalition. The purpose of this dedicated day of action is to raise awareness and demonstrate the need for female condoms, promote their use, and call for greater access.
Why a Global Female Condom Day?
Women and girls now account for more than half of all new HIV infections. In sub-Saharan Africa, 61% of all new HIV infections occur among women. Young women aged 15-24 are as much as eight times more likely than men to be HIV-positive. At the same time, more than 40% of pregnancies worldwide are unintended. The female condom is the only available woman-initiated dual protection method, and it can help reduce these alarming numbers. Yet, female condoms are not widely accessible: according to the United States Agency of International Development (USAID), female condoms comprise only 1.6 percent of total condom distribution!
We Have Come a Long Way
We have already come a long way where procurement, product variety, advocacy and awareness-raising, demand, and use of female condoms are concerned:
In 2004, the number of female condoms procured was 2.3 million. According to RHInterchange, it is estimated that procurement will amount to approximately 45 million female condoms in 2012. This number does not even take into account orders that may still be placed in the fall of 2012.
For years, the FC2 was the only female condom prequalified by the World Health Organization. As of July 2012, a second female condom is prequalified: the Cupid Female Condom. Additional female condom designs are currently being manufactured, with the Woman’s Condom being the most likely to be the next prequalified design.
Global Advocacy & Raising Awareness
Female condoms were identified by the United Nations Commission on Life-Saving Commodities for Women and Children as underutilized and underfunded commodities that can help save millions of lives.
In-Country Advocacy & Raising Awareness
There have been many successes at the country level. One example is Cameroon, where a combination of advocacy, social marketing, and educational activities resulted in a more positive attitude towards female condoms. This has also led to wider acceptance by men and women alike, and has led to sales numbers of over 1 million per year in 5 provinces. This is impressive, given that there were hardly any female condoms sold (143.593 in the whole country) before the program started in 2009.
Two awareness-raising and advocacy actions that have contributed to the success in Cameroon are:
- Famous Cameroonian artists joining together as female condom champions and recording a female condom song & video clip
- Showing political, traditional, religious, and military leaders in Cameroon the large demand for female condoms by engaging them in the Paper Doll Campaign
This Paper Doll Campaign is an initiative of the UAFC Joint Programme in which colorful paper dolls displays individual messages demanding female condoms. Globally, the campaign can be used both as an in-country and international advocacy tool. During the International AIDS Conference, it helped to bust the myth that people do not want to use female condoms.
Visit the official website for more inspiring ideas and tools and ways to participate. To learn more about Global Female Condom day, click here.
Flickr photograph via DFID - UK Department for International Development.