Women need access to dual protection and more female-controlled options.
If you’ve been following the discussion around the World Health Organization’stechnical guidance on hormonal contraception and HIV, chances are you’ve seen this message emerge. So what female-controlled, dual protection methods are available today—methods that help prevent both pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV?
Right now the female condom is the only method that fits this bill. But don’t let the term deceive you—there are actually quite a few different female condom designs. Some of which, are just beginning to make their way into the hands of women, helping to expand choices for urgently needed dual protection.
One of these is the Woman’s Condom, which the public voted into the top 10 technologies and innovations in the Women Deliver 50 contest. Under funding from USAID and other donors, the Woman’s Condom was developed by PATH and our partner CONRAD with input from women in several countries. Engaging women and men as co-designers helped us develop a highly acceptable female condom. Clinical studies in multiple countries confirm that the product is safe, easy to use, and performs well.
The Woman’s Condom has features that help bring a bit of sensuality to dual protection. The condom is very thin and smooth, conducts heat well, and allows for good sensation. It is packaged dry but comes with a packet of water-based lubricant, so couples can choose the amount of lubricant that’s right for them. Women and men have given the Woman’s Condom some high marks. For instance, male focus group participants in Shanghai, China, described the product as “fresh,” “mystical,” and “brilliant.”
So what’s happening with the Woman’s Condom today? PATH licensed the Woman’s Condom to the Dahua Medical Apparatus Company (Dahua) in Shanghai, China, to manufacture and distribute the product. It has regulatory approval in China and the European Union, and additional applications are under way. For example, the Woman’s Condom is in review by a World Health Organization/United Nations Population Fund committee which will determine whether it is suitable for public-sector programs. The Woman’s Condom became available to consumers for the first time in late 2011 through limited commercial distribution channels in China. Market development in China is ongoing. PATH and its partners are also working to bring the product to sub-Saharan Africa.
So when you hear renewed calls for expanding access to female-initiated dual protection, know that there are indeed new tools like the Woman’s Condom around the corner. For more information about the Woman’s Condom, please visit the PATH website or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kimberly Whipkey is a Global Advocacy Specialist at PATH