Female condoms: a complicated issue in need of attention

Female condoms: a complicated issue in need of attention

Some women in rural areas of the Northern Cape, where efforts are underway to promote increased usage of female condoms, have said they are against the device.

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OurHealth spoke to some women about their negative feelings, and discovered that women described the shape of the condom as “scary” and said it was not user friendly.

“When you use a female condom there is a noise during sex that turns my partner off and is disturbing, so we both prefer the male condom,” one woman said. She said the female condom was unpleasant for uncircumcised men.

The Pleasure Project aims to eroticise the female condom to make it more widely used amongst young women.
The Pleasure Project aims to eroticise the female condom to make it more widely used amongst young women.

“I don’t like the one with a sponge. It is too complicated. I tried it once and did not enjoy it,” another woman said.

Female condom dialogue

These comments and remarks were made during a Female Condom Dialogue organised by the John Taolo Gaetsewe District AIDS Council’s women sector. It was a civil society forum targeting a special focus group of men and women.

The main objective of the dialogue was to measure the use of the female condom and to popularise it further.

Another aim was to hear from the communities whether there were any circulating myths or stories around female condom use, and to find out if there was a need to distribute them as it seemed that only male condoms were being taken by both men and women.

Encourage use

Sector leader Agnes Sibi said she wanted to encourage women to continue using female condoms, acknowledging that the female condom was rarely promoted and the distribution had not been well done.

She said women often failed to exercise their right to initiate condom use because of limited information and cultural barriers. Young women lacked self confidence and empowerment, and disabled people were often left out of the conversation altogether.

Janine Van Wyk, a counsellor for Right To Care – an NGO focused on HIV, Aids, TB and sexually transmitted infections, said she had used a female condom with a sponge known as Cupid, and described it as “amazingly cool”.

“If you really know how to insert it, there is no problem and you can guide your partner as well. No problems occur if you use it properly,” she said.

If you really know how to insert it, there is no problem and you can guide your partner as well. No problems occur if you use it properly.

Men participating in the dialogue said they had never seen a woman using a female condom, and had never experienced it in their relationships.

Confusion

“I don’t think they know how to use them,” suggested Obakeng Khutlang.

Shiela Sebudi, general Manager for the Alliance Against HIV and Aids, said they were advocating for the popularization of the female condom.

“We cannot talk prevention and ignore the use and importance of a female condom away,” Sebudi said.

According to the Centre for Young Women’s Health, the use of the female condom can be very effective if the instructions are well followed, with it being 95% effective in terms of preventing pregnancy and the spread of STIs.

According to the district AIDS Council, the use of the female condoms needed to be emphasised, and women needed to learn how to use them.

It was decided that a massive campaign should be initiated by civil society to ensure that information around the use of female condoms is spread in local communities.

Meanwhile the Northern Cape Provincial Council on AIDS will be conducting research on condoms around the province, with three data collectors sent to each district to collect field data. The study is set to start in October, and will continue for three months.