Thursday, March 6, 2008

Female condom for Rs 5 in India

A five-rupee female condom (FC) will now spearhead India's fight to control HIV spread among women.

Under the first phase, the National AIDS Control Organisation (Naco) is procuring 15 lakh female condoms from UK's Female Health Company (FHC), which will be doled out to sex workers and housewives in Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal over the next 8 months. A decision on a countrywide upscale will be undertaken after reviewing data from these four states.

According to Naco director-general K Sujatha Rao, a year-long pre-programme acceptability and feasibility study, involving 60,000 women in 13 sites — 11 involving high risk groups like sex workers and two family planning programmes — in eight states from November 2006, found 60% women re-purchasing the condom and over 98% of the users finding it comfortable. Naco through UNFPA had procured five lakh condoms from FHC for its acceptability study.

Rao told TOI: "The pilot project was highly successful showing consistent use of FCs. We have, therefore, decided to scale up the programme under which we will first train women on how to use these condoms."

Union health minister A Ramadoss said: "When a male partner refuses to wear a condom, women need self-initiated methods to protect themselves against unplanned pregnancies and HIV/AIDS."

According to Manoj Gopalakrishna from Hindustan Latex Limited, India till now imported FCs making them expensive. "We have now set up an FC manufacturing unit in Kochi. FHC has transferred the condom manufacturing technology to us. We will manufacture 10 million FCs annually. Though the cost of making each condom will be Rs 40, it will be available to women for Rs 5 through 200 NGO-led targeted interventions."

Esther Bayliss from the Female Health Foundation told TOI: "Female condoms — FC1 and FC2 — are the only ones approved by US FDA and WHO. These condoms are the first and only female-initiated barrier method that is safe and effective if used correctly and consistently providing dual protection against the transmission of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS and unintended pregnancy."

Nearly 40% of the 2.5 million HIV positive victims living in India are women, most of them hapless housewives who don't look at their husbands as a threat and commercial sex workers unable to negotiate with clients refusing to use a condom.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/India/Female_condom_for_Rs_5_in_India/rssarticleshow/2841558.cms

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