Condoms are not just made for the fellas.
The female condom has been on the market since 1993, but it hasn't been as popular in the U.S. as it is in other countries such as Brazil and South Africa — which is really a shame given the empowering premise behind its creation. It's not a secret that in many heterosexual relationships men control whether a couple uses a condom, and so if he doesn't want to, a condom is not used. But with the female condom, a woman has more power protecting her body and her health.
The female condom is a thin rubber pouch that is inserted into the vagina. It can reduce your risk of pregnancy and contracting STDs and HIV.
Over the years, health advocates and female users have complained that the female condom was too expensive — one male condom costs $1, while the female condom cost $2.50 — and that the polyurethane, a synthetic material less flexible than latex, was just plain uncomfortable and squeaked.
Manufacturers listened to those complaints, and in 2009 they created FC2, a second-generation female condom, which is a slightly less expensive version ($6.49 for a box of three, yet still more expensive than male condoms) and is made of nitrile, a thinner and lighter non-latex material.
A recent study boasts the effectiveness of this newer version of the female condom and what can happen if people are more educated on how to use it.
Researchers from the city's health department and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health monitored a D.C.-based program that focused on African-American women who were at risk for HIV about the benefits of the female condom, along with providing them female condoms paid for by the city. According to the Washington Post:
“In the first year, the District gave away 200,000 female condoms at beauty parlors, convenience stores, community clinics and other locations. After two years, nearly half a million have been distributed, health officials said. The project also trained peers, including hair stylists at beauty salons, to make it more comfortable for women to talk about sexual health.
“We found the D.C. program was practical and doable,” said David Holtgrave, one of the study’s authors and chairman of the Department of Health Behavior and Society at Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health. The training helped many women and, surprisingly, some men accept the product, officials said.
And what's remarkable is that this particular program prevented 23 new HIV infections, which saved the city $8 million in future costs of HIV treatment. Researchers state the cost of the program may have been over $400,000, but it’s worth the investment when you look at the overall savings.
There are plans to continue this program in the future. That's a good thing, given that Washington, D.C., which is also known as Chocolate City, is the epicenter of the AIDS epidemic in the U.S. According to D.C.'s health department, 3 percent of D.C. residents are living with HIV/AIDS, or 1 in 33. And the rate for residents in their 40s is astounding: 1 in 14 is infected with the disease, a higher rate than those living in African countries. Of the people living with HIV/AIDS in our nation’s capital, 70 percent are African-American.
Learn more about female condoms and how to use them here.
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