[Press-releases] SPC/UNAIDS Press Release: Female condoms - empowering Pacific women to protect themselves
nicoleg at spc.int
Thu Sep 20 21:20:08 EDT 2007
Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) / Joint United Nations
Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS)
Female condoms - empowering Pacific women to protect themselves
Friday 21 September 2007 - Amid the tally of medals won by our Pacific
athletes at the Games in Samoa, distribution of other small objects of
value to athletes also proved a great success. These are the female
condoms, made available to all by the organisers of the Safe Games
Campaign through peer educators.
'While male condoms offer effective protection, a female condom allows
women more say in the negotiation process as it is the woman and not the
man who wears the condom,' says Dr Dennie Iniakwala, head of SPC's HIV &
STI Section. 'Women are especially vulnerable to sexually transmitted
infections (STIs) such as HIV because of gender inequality and high
rates of gender-based violence. In this environment, relying on male
condoms to protect women is not enough.'
Access to female condoms is crucial as they are highly effective in
preventing unwanted pregnancy and STIs and are one of the few protection
methods entirely made for and controlled by women.
According to Stuart Watson, UNAIDS Coordinator for the Pacific sub -
region, 'the female athletes' right to make choices about their own
health and safety, through the availability of female condoms, is
directly in line with the Millennium Development Goals: Promote Gender
Equality and Empower Women (Goal 3) and Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria and
other diseases (Goal 6), as well as with the United Nations' Convention
on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women
While women, whether married or not, may be at risk of infection through
their own sexual practices, they are mainly exposed to STIs including
HIV as a result of the other sexual relationships of a male partner, and
from the violence - including rape and forced sex - that can occur
inside or outside marriage.
'If we, as a region, are serious about preventing HIV and other STIs, we
need to acknowledge the unbalanced power dynamics between men and women
and their different socio-cultural positions within each society,' says
Dr Iniakwala. 'We need to recognise that women are not always in a
situation where they can negotiate safe sex through the use of male
condoms because they may be afraid of violence or negative social
consequences. Female condoms increase the otherwise limited options
available to women to initiate use of protection, particularly where men
are reluctant to wear a condom or have not thought to carry them.'
'Short of changing women's status in the Pacific today, we need to make
the most of protective devices such as female condoms, which empower
women and at last give them the ability to make their own decisions on
their sexual and reproductive health and welfare.'
According to Dr Iniakwala, 'By energetically endorsing the availability
and use of female condoms, we could be reducing HIV and other STIs as
we speak - we need to be making them as accessible as possible!'
Facts on female condoms:
* Comfortable for men and women
* Offer greater protection (cover both internal and external
* Very convenient (can be inserted up to 8 hours pre-sex)
* Strong (polyurethane is 40% stronger than latex)
* Designed to fit all women and suitable for women of all ages
* CAN BE USED ONLY ONCE. If used more than once, they offer less
protection against STIs or unwanted pregnancy.
For more information, contact Nicole Gooch, HIV & STI Communications
Officer, Public Health Programme, Secretariat of the Pacific Community
Ph: +687 26 67 71, email: NicoleG at spc.int
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