Last week was the 19th International AIDS Conference in Washington, DC where leaders from the worlds of science, politics, philanthropy and entertainment met to assess the state of the disease and evaluate new developments in the fight against AIDS and HIV. Among the many conference highlights was a fashion show where dresses featured weren’t made from cashmere or silk, but rather were created using female condoms. The goal of the fashion show was to bring attention to making female condoms more available, accessible and affordable.
Did you know that the female condom has been on the market for 20 years? We sure didn’t. According to the AIDS 2012 Conference, in the twenty years since the first female condom came onto the market, studies have consistently shown it to be an effective barrier against unplanned pregnancy, and STD’s, including HIV, and that there is a high level of acceptance for female condoms among women, but because of the lack of availability, most don’t even know they exist.
Hence, a fashion show featuring dresses made of female condoms. The show, organized by the Dutch group, Universal Access to Female Condoms (UAFC) Joint Programme and the Muthaa Foundation, which works on community development in Kenya, featured designers from Cameroon, Zimbabwe, Ghana, The Netherlands, and the U.S. The dresses were made of FC2 condoms, the most accessible and generally known female condom brand.
So what is a female condom? Similar to a male condom, it’s made of a thin rubber sheath, and is worn by a woman during sex. The latex free condom has a closed ring at one end, which is inserted into the vagina, with a second open ring at the other end that stays outside the woman’s body. The extra rubber makes the condoms more expensive than it’s male counterpart, which has been one of the main reasons for the lack of availability.
Developing countries have an ever-growing need for family planning and HIV prevention. In sub-Saharan Africa, 61 percent of people infected with HIV are women. “Female condoms are the only contraception that is both initiated by women and protective against HIV infection,” says Ciska Kuijper, a project manager at UAFC. “Female condoms give women control of their health rights.”
A right that all women should have.
- More women than men are affected by the HIV epidemic.
- AIDS is a leading cause of mortality worldwide, with an estimated 2.1 million deaths in 2010.
- It is estimated that there are around 215 million women worldwide who would like to limit or space the children they have, but who are not using any form of contraception.
- Around $10 billion in funding was available for responding to HIV globally in 2007, a forty times increase in a decade. The total funding on female condoms in 2007 was no more than 0.3 percent of the total funding.
- From 1993 to 2005 the only female condom manufacturer was the Female Health Company.
- Only 0.24 percent of all condoms produced are female-condoms.
You can find more facts here.