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Female condoms are subsidised, but not widely advertised
Friday 5 November 2004
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GABON: Female condoms are subsidised, but not widely advertised

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

©  Female Health Company

The overall use of female condom remains low in Gabon

LIBREVILLE, 21 October (PLUSNEWS) - A sharp cut in the price of female condoms should promote their use in Gabon, one of the Central African countries most affected by HIV/AIDS, medical workers said.

In September 2003 the Gabonese Movement for Family Welfare (MGBEF), a local non-governmental organisation, began selling female condoms to women for just 100 CFA (20 US cents), a fraction of their price in commercial pharmacies.

The MGBEF provides low-priced pre-natal medical care, birth control advice and medical check-ups at a clinic in the capital Libreville.

Thierry Zue Asseko, the director of MGBEF, said sales of female condoms, which are subsidised by the UK-based International Planned Parenthood Federation, had picked up quickly and the NGO was now selling about 4,000 a month.

However, the overall use of female condoms - which allow the woman more control over protecting herself from sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancy - remains low in Gabon.

According to the government's National Programme to Fight AIDS (PLNS), four million condoms were sold through pharmacies and other retail outlets such as newspaper and lottery kiosks or health centres, to Gabon's 1.2 million population last year, but only 60,000 of those were female condoms.

Full-price female condoms sell for 1,000 to 2,000 CFA francs (US $2 to $4) each in ordinary pharmacies in Libreville, whereas male condoms sell for less than half that price.

In reality, male condoms can be had for much less by those who really want them. Some NGO's distribute the contraceptives free of charge. Many of these end up on the black market, where they are sold for just 125 CFA (23 US cents) each by cigarette sellers and other petty traders.

Yvette Ngwevilo Rekangalt, the head of the local NGO SOS Mwana, which takes care of deprived children, said the high price of female condoms largely accounted for their low utilisation in Gabon.

However, Richard Aubame, a doctor at Libreville's General Hospital, said he believed that the use of female condoms was restricted because the product had not received much media coverage.

"The use of male condoms has been more publicized than female condoms and this is probably due to the fact that female condom has just been introduced on the market," he told PlusNews.

"We think that with the recent price cut, usage will balance out over time," he added

A quarter of Gabon's working age population is unemployed so many young women turn to prostitution, exposing themselves to the risk of HIV. Gabon's HIV prevalence rate of 8.1 percent is among the highest in the region.

Rekangalt sees the female condom as being important for sex workers and other women whose male partners are reluctant to put on a male sheath before intercourse.

But she recognises that it cannot be the complete answer, given prevailing social attitudes.

"Some men will still feel that their manhood is being threatened," she said.


Recent GABON Reports
Number of new HIV infections fell in 2003,  24/Sep/04
Government launches free AIDS helpline,  20/Sep/04
Price of AIDS testing and ARV drugs slashed,  10/Jun/04
Youth is more afraid of unemployment than AIDS,  17/Feb/04
VIH Internet
Sida Info Services
Le Fonds mondial de lutte contre le SIDA, la tuberculose et le paludisme
Le Réseau Afrique 2000

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