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Cheaper female condom increases accessibility.

Women in sub-Saharan Africa will soon benefit from a cheaper version of the female condom, enabling them to negotiate safer sex with their male partners. The high cost of the female condom has prevented many women in developing countries from accessing the prevention device, but a new second-generation female condom made of synthetic latex could change this.

Many HIV/AIDS advocacy groups see the female-controlled barrier method as a significant alternative available to women for empowering themselves against infection.

"The [new material] allows us to manufacture larger volumes, and this could cause a significant reduction in price," said Mary Ann Leeper, president of the US-based Female Health Company (FHC).

Last week female condom manufacturer FHC announced that the second-generation female condom (FC2) would be made available to developing countries, and that smaller, poorer nations would be able to purchase the product by forming a coalition. "If countries in a region come together as a collective and place a large order, this will allow the smallest country to get the best possible price," Leeper noted.

Researchers at the Reproductive Health Research Unit in Durban, South Africa, conducted studies to assess the performance and acceptability of the new female condom and found that there was no difference in performance. "About a third of the women who used both condoms said they were the same, and people found it difficult to say which one was which," Mags Beksinska, RHRU deputy executive director commented. Compared to the male condom, however, uptake of the female condom has been slow.

Beksinska said: "Ultimately the female condom is still expensive, and the idea is to bring it down to the price of the male condom ... but synthetic latex is still more expensive than latex (the material used to manufacture male condoms)."

Last year between six and nine billion male condoms were distributed globally, but only 12 million female condoms were made available during the same period.

Source: UN Integrated Regional Information Networks, 11 October 2005
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Title Annotation:NEWS CLIPPINGS
Publication:Sister Namibia
Geographic Code:60AFR
Date:Nov 1, 2005
Words:328
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