3 July 2007

Kenya: Female Condoms Still Out of Reach, Says Delegates

Nairobi — Many women are still unable to access the female condom, 14 years since it was introduced as a way of preventing sexually transmitted infections and unplanned pregnancies.

Women from various countries attending the ongoing World Young Women's Christian Association (YMCA) conference, in Nairobi said the female condom was either completely unavailable in their countries or is expensive unlike the male condom.

In other cases, myths and stigma have made them shy away from procuring it, a workshop discussing the device heard.

The female condom was introduced in 1993 and is manufactured by the Female Health Company located in the United Kingdom.

Data from the condom manufactures shows that Kenya has this year procured 203,404 female condoms through the United Nations Population Fund.

Brazil and Zimbabwe are the leading procurers according to the statistics given by the Female Health Company's director of programmes and sales Robbie Nelson.

The workshop's facilitator Ms Maya Gokul said many women wanted the female condom but could not access it. "The problem is that it is not available," she said.

The aim of the workshop was to de-stigmatise the female condom and get young and married women to use it.

Dr Ahiodun Chris Oyeyipo, the assistant representative of UNFPA-Nigeria said correct and consistent use of the female condom could reduce the risk of HIV infection by more than 90 per cent in women having sex with an infected partner.

Not willing

He said the condom was more relevant given that family planning methods were only effective in preventing pregnancies, while men may not always be willing to put on condoms.

UNFPA technical adviser on HIV and Aids Ms Mary Otieno, however, encouraged promoters of the condom to work with men in their programmes.

Ms Rowena Ngubeni of YWCA-South Africa, said the female condom was not readily available like the male condom.

Ms Petronilla Okoth of YWCA-Kenya said the female condom gives women greater control in negotiating for safe sex.

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