Elevating the Female Condom in the Dual Protection Discussion

Female condoms are the often overlooked and under-appreciated sibling to male condoms.

Equally effective at preventing both HIV and pregnancy when used correctly, the female version still hasn’t quite caught on like its male counterpart. Perhaps it is lack of access – they are harder to find and more expensive than male condoms. Or maybe it is a lack of knowledge on how to use them correctly or simply because people don’t like change. Regardless, the female condom continues to take a back seat in the HIV prevention and contraceptive world.

Yet female condoms offer so many benefits. Because they can be inserted some time before sexual relations, they empower women by giving them control and eliminating the need to negotiate male condom use. They are also just something fun and different, which I think is important. While change is hard, it can be exciting too. Promoting the female condom should take advantage of the excitement women may feel in using something fun and new with their partner.

In Swaziland, the Health Communication Capacity Collaborative (HC3) developed two materials, a z-card brochure and a job aid poster for providers to highlight the importance and need for dual protection. Female condoms aren’t talked about enough in the dual protection conversation; yes we say “condoms” but condoms are usually synonymous with male condoms, leaving out the opportunity to promote the female condom which has equal footing and importance in prevention. In creating these materials, we wanted to be sure to feature the female condom equally with the male condom, showing that they are both great, safe options. The brochure shows the step-by-step process of using each one. By showing the different hormonal contraceptive methods, it encourages readers to double up by also using either a female or male condom along with their hormonal contraceptive of choice.

So go ahead and check them out and next time you reach for a condom, why don’t you give the female condom a try?

FemaleCondom-factsheet-1Additional Resource:

Spotlight on the Female Condom

The female condom is the only women-initiated, dual-protection commodity that protects women from both STIs – including HIV– and unintended pregnancy.

However, it remains an underutilized commodity in family planning and HIV prevention, and as such, has been identified by the UN Commission on Life-Saving Commodities for Women’s and Children’s Health as one of 13 commodities that, if more widely accessed and properly used, could save the lives of more than six million women and children worldwide.

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