Prevention advocates rejoice! Yesterday the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the FC2 female
condom – a second generation product manufactured by the Female Health
There are many reasons to celebrate.
First and foremost, the "prevention toolkit" is expanding – women
and men now have another option to prevent HIV infection. And women
in particular now have another safe and effective method designed for
them to initiate (even though men
can initiate female condom use too!).
The FC2 is designed to overcome some of the reported barriers faced
by its predecessor, the FC1 – it is apparently less noisy to use during
sex – and yet shares all the benefits of the FC1, such as the ability
to use water and oil-based lubricants or to insert the condom up to
eight hours before intercourse. But the reason that is grabbing
the most headlines is the FC2 is cheaper to produce than the FC1, which
means that cost-savings will be passed on to the consumer. In
fact, the FC2 will sell for about 30% less than the FC1.
This of course has positive
implications for the affordability and accessibility of female condoms
in the U.S. and internationally. For instance, the United States
Agency for International Development plans to phase out procurement
of the FC1 upon FDA approval of the FC2 according to Saving Lives
Now, a report
by the Center for Health and Gender Equity. This means that potentially
more female condoms can be procured, distributed and programmed overseas
due to lower costs.
Cheers are definitely in order
for the decrease in manufacturing costs. But it’s also important
to recognize that lower cost to the consumer is not a silver bullet
to rapid female condom uptake and use in the U.S. or internationally.
Without adequate investments in technical support and programming, how
will women in men learn about the female condom-about how to insert
it and use it correctly and consistently, and how to negotiate and communicate
with their partners?
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With the drop in cost for the
new female condom, we also need a surge in education and advocacy, at
the local, national and international level. Local service providers
and departments of health, ministries of health and other decision makers
need to hear from advocates that increased investment in female condom
procurement, distribution and programming is essential.
We encourage you to join the Prevention Now!
Campaign – a
global campaign to dramatically increase donor and government funding
for the purchase, distribution and program support needed to expand
access to female and male condoms and other existing prevention options
for women and men. Let’s build on this momentum together to
make universal access to female condoms a reality!