Better Safe Than Sorry
Forum urges the promotion of female condoms
Newspaper section: Life
Promoting the female condom as an alternative for preventing pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases still has a long way to go, according to experts.
While providing an option for women wishing to practice safe sex, this non-conventional condom needs support from the state to make it a regular preventive device, said experts at a recent forum on a policy proposal on female condoms which was co-organised by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Mahidol University's Centre for Health Policy Studies, the Health and Opportunity Network (Hon), the Women's Health Advocacy Foundation and the Thai Health Promotion Foundation.
Conventional condoms have not been a particular success, either.
"If the promotion of male condoms was successful, we would not have to have this forum [on female condoms]," said Kanokwan Tharawan of Mahidol University's Institute for Population and Social Research.
Her team recently conducted a study on the use of female condoms among 309 people, divided into five groups: people living with HIV/Aids; men who have sex with men (MSM); transgendered people (TG); female sex workers; and married women. The respondents must have used female condoms at least once.
The study found that sex workers generally use condoms with customers to prevent STDs, however, some do not use them with regular customers and partners.
Married women, meanwhile, have no interest in this unconventional device as they have other birth control methods.
Those living with HIV/Aids said they basically use condoms except when they wanted to have a baby.
It was found that transgendered people and MSM are more receptive to this type of condom, saying they would use it if it is available. Currently, female condoms are imported for research, not for commercial purposes.
"This group said female condoms should be sold at public places such as hospitals, pubs, bars, karaoke venues, restaurants and other places of entertainment," said Kanokwan.
People with HIV/Aids asked the government to provide female condoms for free, while sex workers said they were concerned about the price, saying the item should not exceed 18 baht per piece.
Kanokwan urged the government to promote this non-conventional condom as an alternative device to curb unplanned pregnancies and STDs. If successful, it would reduce the government's financial burden in dealing with STDs.
"Priority should be given to sex workers and those living with HIV/Aids who really need to use them," she added.
Dr Taweesap Siraprapasiri, of UNFPA, said that although they debuted in western countries in 1992, the sale of female condoms worldwide is still limited, at 33 million pieces per year, or less than 1% of the volume of male condoms.
Limited sale venues and high price (60 cents, or 18 baht apiece) are blamed for the condom's continued lack of popularity.
"Female condoms are necessary. They are a good alternative for women and men whose partners refuse to use male condoms," he said.
The female condom, which is made of polymer, is 60% more durable than the conventional condom which is made of natural latex.
Dr Taweesap noted that there was a lack of interest in promoting the use of female condoms and it required state policy to make their usage more regular.
Hon's Thissadee Sawangying, who has been promoting the use of female condoms for five years, said that in her experience there are several obstacles stopping female condoms from becoming more popular.
The main obstacle is the attitude of women who are afraid that using such condoms will tar their "decent women" image. High prices and the condom's peculiar size are also key problems.
In addition, female condoms need clear categorisation _ whether they are cosmetics, general medical products or specifically-controlled medical devices.
Without clear categorisation, importers are reluctant to order them as they are afraid of complicated import process.About the author
Writer: Lamphai Intathephttp://www.bangkokpost.com/
improve your health,reverse heart disease, eat for health,reverse aging, Eat To Live
Live Blood Cell Darkfield Microscopy Interactive Training CD http://bit.ly/9zFIG3