US health products major Female Health Company (FHC) has received an initial order for the supply of 500,100 FC female condoms for India's state-run National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO).
"The condoms will be used in NACO's reproductive health and HIV/AIDS prevention programmes and distribution will initially be focused on commercial sex workers in four high prevalence states (Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharastra) in India," said a statement issued by FHCO Wednesday.
The order was placed through the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
NACO estimated the number of HIV infected individuals in India in 2004 to be 5.1 million, the second largest HIV affected population after South Africa.
The United Nations Joint Programme on AIDS (UNAIDS) reported in 2005 that a significant portion of new infections in India is occurring in women who are married and have been infected by husbands who frequented sex workers.
The UNAIDS report highlighted that commercial sex serves as a major driver of the epidemic in most parts of India.
"The initiation of the NACO female condom programme in India represents a major milestone in FHC's efforts to bring FC female condoms to the women of India," said O.B. Parrish, chairman and CEO of FHC.
FHC and its Indian partner state-owned Hindustan Latex Ltd (HLL) "are now prepared to enter into formal negotiations to establish manufacturing capability for FC2 (FCH's second generation products) in India, thereby further developing Indian opportunities for FC," said Parrish.
HLL was formerly FHC's exclusive marketer and distributor in India.
"We feel highly confident that expansion of FC female condom use in India will help in empowering poor and vulnerable women to protect themselves from HIV and other STDs," said M. Ayyappan, chairman and managing director of HLL.
HLL is one of the world's largest manufacturers of male condoms with annual production capacity of over 900 million pieces. HLL also manufactures oral contraceptive pills, intra-uterine devices, blood transfusion bags, surgical sutures and surgical gloves.