African Services Committee Applauds City for Its Efforts to Expand Access to Woman-Initiated HIV Prevention
NEW YORK, Nov. 16 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- African Services Committee is praising New York City's Department of Health, for showing national leadership in putting the second-generation female condom into the hands of women living with or at risk of HIV/AIDS infection.
"We enthusiastically endorse New York City's efforts to scale up access to the second-generation female condom and to educate women on its important role in HIV prevention," says Kim Nichols, Co-Executive Director of African Services Committee, a community-based HIV testing, prevention and care organization in Harlem.
"At a time when the World Health Organization has recognized AIDS as the leading cause of death for women of reproductive age worldwide, it's essential to make woman-initiated HIV prevention methods widely available and affordable," Ms. Nichols added.
New York City will begin purchasing the Female Health Company's FC2 Female Condom®, which received approval for the U.S. market from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in May. FC2 is comparable to the first-generation FC1 Female Condom in performance, but the introduction of a new material has allowed its manufacturer to reduce FC2's cost by 30 percent relative to FC1.
Increased global sales can help to further reduce FC2s unit cost. Women's reproductive health advocates are hopeful that increased sales will reduce FC2s cost to the point where it will be affordable to HIV prevention programs worldwide.
FC2 is already included in the WHO's essential products list, and it has been available internationally since 2005. It is currently distributed in more than 90 countries, and more than 35 million units were distributed worldwide in 2008, the majority to internationally funded HIV prevention programs in Africa.
Tembeni Fazo, originally from Zimbabwe and a peer advocate and health educator at African Services Committee, said, "At African Services, we have distributed thousands of free female condoms over the past seven years. As an organization dedicated to serving the health needs of New York City's African immigrants, we are proud that HIV prevention programs in Africa have pioneered the introduction of the second-generation female condom and are glad it will now be more widely available in New York City,"
"Experience has shown that when women and men have access to the female condom and education on its correct use, it is a product that is embraced and in high demand," Ms. Fazo added. Just like the tampon two generations ago, women need to be introduced to the female condom and experience it for themselves to recognize its value."
To help organizations involved in New York City's free condom distribution program, the New York City of Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is sponsoring a one-day meeting on November 16 that will feature an education session by Sandra Mapemba of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). Ms. Mapemba recently led Malawi's introduction of the second-generation female condom, and she will provide information on how to discuss the new female condom with clients and answer frequently asked questions.
"It's very exciting that an African woman will be teaching women in America about the second-generation female condom," Ms. Nichols noted. "It demonstrates how far we have come in expanding HIV prevention around the world, but that we still have a lot of work to do in the United States to raise women's awareness and access to of the female condom. New York's investment in expanding awareness should be applauded, and we hope other state and local governments will start following the city's lead."
In its first report on the status of women's health around the globe, released last week, the World Health Organization stated that HIV infection is now the leading cause of death and disease among women ages 15 to 44. It is also the leading cause of death for African American women of reproductive age in the US. African American women are currently 33 times more likely than white women to be living with HIV/AIDS, and Latino women are four times more likely than white women to become infected with HIV.
"Advocates for women's health in the United States must reignite awareness that AIDS remains a serious challenge to women's health in the United States, especially among women of color," Ms. Nichols said. "It's time to recognize that women need access to HIV prevention tools that they can initiate and discuss with their partners. We need to put the power of prevention in women's hands."
About African Services Committee: African Services is a Harlem-based organization established by and for African immigrants in New York City. Since 1981, it has provided free health, housing, legal, educational, and social services to more than 10,000 newcomers each year from across the African Diaspora. African Services Committee is also engaged in the global fight against AIDS, working to expand HIV testing, treatment, care and support to African communities in New York City and the world. For more information, go to: www.africanservices.org.
SOURCE African Services Committee