Observing Global Female Condom Day in India

by Nancy Needhima on  September 13, 2012 at 4:20 PM Health In Focus
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In view of curbing venereal diseases, especially among communities facing high risk of contracting AIDS, HIV or STIs, an initiative to educate, address and promote safe sex was highlighted by encouraging the use of female condom. The intention was honored on Global Female Condom Day observed on 12th September 2012 at Indian Community Welfare Organisation (ICWO), Chennai, South India. The organization organized 'Pink Umbrella Campaign to Popularize Female Condom among High Risk Groups in Chennai'. In the 19th World AIDS Conference held in Washington DC, 12th of September was declared 'Global Female Condom Day'. Medindia shares the details of the first Global Female Condom Day.

Inception of the Observance: During the 19th World AIDS Conference, held between the 17th and 23rd August 2012, the need for female condom came to focus. Since the primary concern was the Female Sex Workers (FSW) who belong to the High Risk Group (HRG), creating awareness, teaching the skills to use, availability and accessibility of female condoms was set in motion among the FSW. 'My Protection, My Rights' was the slogan driving the message, "Protection is your (woman's) right. You do not need to ask anyone to give you the right to protect yourself," asserted A.J. Hariharan, Secretary ICWO. Distribution of female condoms among FSW aims at preventing HIV, but its purpose extends to public to prevent unintended pregnancy. Moreover, organizers assuredly claimed the effectiveness of female condoms to be better than male condoms, but insisted female condoms are not a replacement for male condoms.

Usage of Female Condoms: Anbukarasi, Tami Nadu State Program Officer, Hindustan Latex Family Planning Promotion Trust - HLFPPT along with a female sex worker, demonstrated on how to use the female sex condom and how it protects from STI and pregnancy. The female condom is a pouch with two flexible rings, at two ends. One ring is small and the other ring bigger. The bigger ring is flexed and inserted into the vagina by pushing it in with a finger. This end of the condom places itself closer to the uterus preventing pregnancy. The smaller ring covers the exterior of the vagina. A sex worker who has used the product instructed her audience to hold the smaller ring (outer ring covering the external of the vagina) with two fingers during penetration. After intercourse, the wearer closes the pouch by twisting the mouth (smaller ring), and squeezing it out while the contents, semen and other bodily fluids, do not spill. The pouch is wrapped and discarded.

Advantage of Female Condoms: There are additional benefits of using female condoms. To begin with sex workers claimed that a woman could wear it with ease, anywhere by raising even just one leg while she is standing. Secondly, should a client have sores on his genitals it prevents skin contact. Besides, if a woman encounters a sudden 'chance' for intercourse, she can protect herself, without much delay. It is also safe to be worn during menstruation or pregnancy since it does not cause or add to the pain. Furthermore, must a man refuse to wear a condom a woman can still protect herself without having to depend on the male condom. Initially a woman may be apprehensive wearing the condom but using a female condom once a month for three months should get her comfortable to use it regularly. It does not affect the pleasure of having sex averred the organizers and sex workers. Unlike the condom for males which requires an erection, a woman can wear her condom whenever she wants to protect herself from unwanted pregnancies or STIs.

Spreading Awareness: P.T. Madhusudhanan, State Marketing Manager (Tamil Nadu), Technical Support Group - Condom Promotion, discussed the concessions made to make female condom accessible. The original price of female condoms is Rs. 36/- but government subsidized rate is merely Rs. 3/-. He insisted that female condoms are not a substitute for male condoms. When asked about how the product will reach more audience, he said, "Female condom is currently available as Velvet, but most people do not know about it because of lack of awareness. The awareness and use is in the developing stage and it will take time for people to get familiar with it. We are confident because, today, even college kids know about male condoms and its purpose. In many places frequented by clients and sex workers, men now carry their own condoms. Even if offered condoms men prefer their brands and variety, so awareness has increased to that extent. Similarly, female condoms will reach a wider audience in due course of time." When asked why a woman would opt for a female condom instead of other contraceptives, lack of adverse side effects and no surgical procedure was his response.

Female Sex Workers were delighted at the prospect of using female condoms because the demo on employing it was explained by a sex worker who had used it and found it effective. The event ended with presentations made by sex workers present at ICWO. The purpose of the message of Global Female Condom Day reached the immediate audience at the organization. How soon it will reach the masses, depends on how quickly the message is taken to the public through the end users, NGOs and the media.

Source: Medindia

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