Female Condom, That Great Unknown
When it comes to avoiding infections during sexual intercourse, all types of protection are welcome. However, the female condom is a device that has great advantages and has remained in the background compared to its male counterpart.
It’s been almost 30 years now that the female condom made its appearance in the international market. The HIV epidemic was growing in 1992, therefore it seemed like an excellent option for prevention. However, its high cost and scarce distribution halted its dissemination and appropriation by women.
What is the female condom like?
The female condom is a transparent sheath made from polyurethane and not from latex, like most other preservatives. Polyurethane is not elastic, but this is not required in the female condom, since it’s a 17-centimeter-long canal (enough to cover the inside of the vagina) and almost 8 centimeters in diameter.
At the end that goes inside the vagina, there is a plastic ring that helps place it securely inside the cavity. It also has another ring in the outer end, which is bigger, thus covering most of the vulva. This improves the protection area in order to avoid sexually transmitted infections (STI), unlike male condoms which only cover the penis.
What advantages does it have?
Another advantage of this protective device is that it can be placed several hours before sexual intercourse takes place, thus avoiding issues with not having it at hand in the moment it is needed. Besides, female condoms can also be used for anal sex, since they are resistant and the outer ring keeps it from sliding inside the rectum. In these practices, it’s important to remove the inner ring since it is not needed in this case.
Institutions such as the Pan American Health Organization have recommended its distribution and use. Additionally, the World Health Organization has carried out studies which indicate that, amongst the people that know about it, the acceptance rate for the device varies between 41 up to 95%.
In an experience documented in a community in Veracruz, Mexico, it was observed that information on the female condom influenced positively in its acceptance, since out of a group of 99 women, 87% stated to have tried placing the condom and 83% did not have any problems with their partner accepting to try the device out.
This is why it is so important that more and more women (and men, of course) know about and try the female condom out, besides providing very good protection against STI’s, it favors women’s empowerment by not letting their male partners have the last word on whether to use a preservative or not.
At AHF and our allied centers, we offer counseling and education on sexual health. Free HIV and STI tests, condoms and linkage to treatment. Locate a center near you and visit us or write to us via WhatsApp for more information.