New Rubber Raises Hope

By Attiyah Buford
|  Friday, Apr 17, 2009  |  Updated 2:34 PM EDT
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New Rubber Raises Hope

FC2 is cheaper, more user-friendly, and makes less noise than the previous version.

FC2, a new version of the female condom is causing lots of buzz.

Last month, FC2 was approved by the Food and Drug Administration, now advocates hope the rubber will make a big difference in the global fight against AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.

What’s so great about the new contraceptive? FC2 is cheaper, more user-friendly, and makes less noise than the previous version. In 1993, an early version of the female condom was introduced.  It remains the only available woman-initiated form of protection against both STDs and unintended pregnancy.

About 35 million female condoms were distributed worldwide last year, but that number is not so impressive compared to more than 10 billion male condoms, which are far cheaper and, at least initially, easier to use.

This might be a good time for woman to be more open-minded and take matters into their own hands, as women bear an ever-growing share of the AIDS epidemic.

A stigma associated with the female condom has posed a big challenge. That’s a problem because women considered to benefit from the contraceptive the most won’t get the protection they need. Prostitutes are on the top of that list. Advocates of the female condom also say it has invaluable safe-sex potential for married women whose husbands are unfaithful and shun male condoms.

Resistance is less of a problem in some developing nations. The U.N. Population Fund, government agencies and nonprofits are aggressively promoting female condoms in places such as Brazil, Ghana, Zimbabwe and South Africa.

"The mindset is changing, but there are still a lot of challenges," said Bidia Deperthes, the Population Fund's HIV technical adviser for condoms. Deperthes hopes that with FDA approval of the FC2, the number of female condoms distributed globally could climb to 50 million this year.

Serra Sippel, executive director of the Center for Health and Gender Equity in Washington, said FDA approval of the FC2 is a key step toward "putting the power of prevention in women's hands… we'd love to see the profile raised, to have commercials about it and normalize it so people aren't embarrassed," she said.

FC2 is produced by Chicago-based Female Health Co. It is made from synthetic rubber rather than polyurethane, allowing for a less costly manufacturing process.
 

Associated Press/NBCPhiladelphia.com

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