Chennai, March 14 (IANS) India Wednesday launched a major initiative to introduce female condoms across the country, with an NGO in Tamil Nadu planning a usage study in six districts.
The central government, in collaboration with the Hindustan Latex Ltd and the National Aids Control Organisation (NACO) began a nationwide initiative in October to provide female condoms at just Rs.3 to NGOs working with female sex workers.
The government has decided to distribute 500,000 female condoms by June in the first phase at a cost of Rs.180,000 in its second line of defence against HIV/AIDS, said a Tamil Nadu State Aids Control Society (TANSACS) official here.
The project will reach out to 11,000 sex workers in the country with the help of 400 civil society groups. The first part of the initiative, to cover 3,000 sex workers, will be completed by the year-end.
The scheme is being implemented in eight states simultaneously, with an initial acceptability study done in Tamil Nadu and an operation research study in Gujarat and West Bengal.
TANSACS Wednesday announced that it has acquired 60,000 female condoms and has begun distributing them through six NGOs in Kanyakumari, Madurai, Tiruchirapally, Salem, Vellore and Chennai.
'It is for the first time that a government (the Tamil Nadu government) is supporting such a pilot project,' TANSACS project director Supriya Sahu told IANS.
'We are looking at the reproductive rights of women directly. Most women do not have this right to choose. This is a HIV-AIDS prevention tool under a woman's control,' she said. 'For the first time, a woman will have a preventive tool in her own hand.'
'We will monitor and make public our findings on acceptability, usage and efficacy by April in a report,' said Sahu. TANSACS will also reach female condoms to another 800,000 women through self-help groups, she added.
A study in the late '90s found 60 percent of sex workers in Tamil Nadu willing to use female condoms.
Each female condom costs Rs.50, but Hindustan Latex has made them available to NACO at a subsidy. NACO will distribute condoms to community health workers in ongoing AIDS prevention programmes among commercial sex workers.
The community worker will get one condom at Rs.3 and will be allowed to sell it to the user, a female commercial sex worker, at Rs.5 as there has to be a 30 percent cost recovery for the programme to succeed.
NACO is making the condoms available to AIDS control societies in Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Gujarat, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh.