SOUTHERN AFRICA: What of the female condom?

Photo: Asian Community AIDS Services
Anyone seen the female condom lately?
JOHANNESBURG, 10 September 2009 (PlusNews) - If you haven't seen a female condom lately, you're not alone. More than 15 years after the only female-controlled method to prevent HIV was introduced, it is still largely marginalized and inaccessible.

IRIN/PlusNews has compiled a list illustrating female condom distribution in Southern African countries.


The government distributed over 370,000 female condoms free of charge in 2008, mainly through its health facilities. The condoms can also be purchased from stores and pharmacies for about US$2.80 each.


The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare distributed about 110,000 female condoms by September 2009.


In 2008 the health department announced that it would distribute a redesigned and easier-to-insert model of the prophylactic in government clinics, at no cost; 948,000 female condoms were distributed in 2008, according to implementing partner the UN Population Fund (UNFPA).

Sold under the brand-name "Care", the condoms cost about MK35.00 ($0.25) per pack of two. Partner organizations distributing the condoms have been working with religious leaders in the highly conservative country to promote their use.


PSI sold almost 33,000 female condoms in 2008 for as little as $0.12 each. However, there have been major delays in government's free distribution programme.

In 2008, UNFPA gave the Ministry of Health 1,250,000 of the prophylactics, but none have actually been distributed, as the government is still training health workers on the condoms and conducting advocacy as part of their national roll-out, according to the UNFPA country office.


The most news the female condom has made in recent years was when young women started cutting them up to make rubber bracelets of the insertive rings. According to UNFPA country spokesperson Valery Pack, the prophylactics remain unpopular.

Government distributed about 950,000 condoms in 2008, retailing for about $1.00 each. The country has also set up a programme that allows bars to collect the condoms from government medical stores and distribute them to their patrons.

South Africa

About 3.6 million of the prophylactics were distributed free of charge at government health facilities in 2008.

One of the country's largest pharmacy chains, Click's, sells a twin-pack of female condoms for about R30 or $3.85. According to Rob Jones, a buyer for the chain, they are also planning to carry the new three-pack once it becomes available.

Photo: Lourenço Silva/PlusNews
In 2008 over 5 million condoms were distributed in Zimbabwe

In 2008 the government and partners handed out about 312,000 female condoms to Swazis, according to UNFPA country spokeswoman Nomahlubi Matiwane. Although most users get them free, the condoms are also available through subsidized social marketing programmes at a cost of about $0.60.


Government and UNFPA distributed about 280,000 condoms in 2008 - slightly more than half the number distributed by local social marketing NGOs. The going rate for 10 female condoms is K2190 ($0.55).


If there is a female condom success story, it is Zimbabwe, which boasts the highest rate of female condom distribution per capita worldwide, according to UNFPA country office estimates. In 2008, the government and partners distributed over five million of the condoms.

First introduced in 1997 and initially marketed as the "Care Contraceptive Sheath", sales of female condoms rose by almost 60 percent in 2007, according to UNFPA.

Population Services International (PSI), a social marketing organization, is the main supplier of socially marketed subsidized condoms, which are distributed via stores, pharmacies and hair salons for about less than one US cent per condom.


Theme (s): Gender Issues, HIV/AIDS (PlusNews), Prevention - PlusNews,

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

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