Recently I was having a conversation about the responsibility of maintaining birth control with a friend of mine and she said, “I can’t until they make effective birth control pills for men. That way one gender wouldn’t have to shoulder the primary responsibility of preventing unplanned pregnancy.” I feel the same way about STD and HIV prevention too.
And then I read a piece in the Washington Post and remembered the female condom:
“The Food and Drug Administration has approved Female Health Company’s second-generation female condom (FC2). Now the company must figure out how to get it to the markets where it’s most needed. In 2010, the World Health Organization cited HIV/AIDS as the leading cause of death worldwide among women 15 to 44 years old. Mary Ann Leeper and colleagues knew that the female condom provided life-saving empowerment to women. It is the only protection against HIV/AIDS controlled by women.”
In an effort to help raise the profile of the female condom, Female Health Company created a number of public-private partnerships in cities across the country including Washington D.C., which has the highest infection rate for African American women in the country. According to a previous article in the Post, the partnership distributed 200,000 female condoms to beauty salons and community clinics and provided over $400,000 in educational services just in the D.C. area alone. The results proved to increase acceptance of female condoms among both men and women. While this proved to be a highly successful and clever marketing tactic to get female condoms into the hands of a core demographic, it was also a great way to increase the visibility and produce an adequate buy-in of a product, which has to overcome some stigmas and the popularity of the male counterpart.
As long as I can remember, the commonplace belief has always been the women tend to take care of the birth control and the men, the STD prevention (i.e. condoms). I get it, it is a lot easier for a man to slip on a jimmy (they still call them that?) than a women to jam some device up in the snatch and apply all those messy spermicidal creams properly. But with the rate of HIV/AIDS still prominent in the community, particularly with African American and Latino women representing a sizable number of Americans disproportionately impacted by the epidemic, we have to ask ourselves if the task of protecting our sexual health in the sole hands of just one gender?
I know from personal experience there is nothing more frustrating than hearing a dude say he forgot to bring a condom. And even if you are among the well-tuned women, who carry around their own prophylactic, there is no guarantee to ensure that your date for the evening won’t decide to take it off (that stuff happens too) during the act. Therefore, women having power of the condom situation seems like the best course of action to help decrease the spread of sexual diseases – as well as infections. It is said that the female condom actual provides greater skin coverage, thus not only sharply reducing your chances of STDs and HIV but also providing coverage against more topical diseases like Herpes and the human papillomavirus (HPV).
When they are used properly, it is said that female condoms are 95 percent reliable – of course, that’s if they are used accurately. The most common complaint I heard among those friends I know, who have tried it, was that if not careful, a man can bypass the condom all together. But with a little practice, a woman (and man) can certainly learn the proper way to use them. Heck there are even YouTube videos available for those too shy to seek out help.
However for the female condom to become more popular and acceptable, they are going to have to continue on way to make it more convenient and affordable. A three-count box of FC2 will cost about between $4.49 and $5.99 at Walgreens. While this is way cheaper than what they used to cost (I remember when it was $10 a box), they are still a bit more expensive than male condoms. Also, men have the option of going to the corner bodega or Chinese store, if needed. Women on the other hand, have to seek out a drug store or go to an authorized supplier, which might not be fitting when some spontaneous sex just so happens to spring up (no pun intended). But it is certainly not a bad idea to one day, while at the drug store, pick up a box and keep them next to your bed stand. I remember that the year I got a bunch of the FC free from the health clinic. Unfortunately 2010-11 was a bad year for the kid and eventually they dried out before I got a chance to test them out. But I had them – just in case.
What do you think about the female condom? Have you ever used one?