March 28, 2012
It's no secret that since the female condom hit the scene in the U.S., it hasn't gained the same popularity as it has in countries such as Brazil and South Africa. Complaints have ranged from the price -- female condoms are considerably more expensive than male condoms -- to the comfort of the type of latex used. But a less expensive second generation, FC2, was created in 2009, and a recent study found that this newer version is both more cost-efficient and successful in reducing new HIV infections among women.
Researchers from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the D.C. Department of Health monitored a program in Washington that distributed 200,000 of these female condoms to women at risk for HIV. The Washington Post reported:
In the first year, the District gave away 200,000 female condoms at beauty parlors, convenience stores, community clinics and other locations. After two years, nearly half a million have been distributed, health officials said. The project also trained peers, including hair stylists at beauty salons, to make it more comfortable for women to talk about sexual health.
"We found the D.C. program was practical and doable," said David Holtgrave, one of the study's authors and chairman of the Department of Health Behavior and Society at Johns Hopkins' Bloomberg School of Public Health. The training helped many women and, surprisingly, some men accept the product, officials said.
According to the study, by preventing 23 new infections among the study's group of women, the city saved more than $8 million in future treatment costs -- and that's even after subtracting the program's $414,186 price tag.
NPR further breaks down why this female condom program saves the city money:
The project was able to buy female condoms at a cut rate -- $1.55 apiece, compared to $2 or more on the retail market. But adding the cost of education sessions, the program spent $3.19 for every female condom that was actually used during sex.
Even so, when the researchers compared the cost of the condom program with the cost of HIV infections it prevented, they find female condoms saved between $15 and $20 for every dollar spent.
Allowing for the fact that some female condoms merely substituted for the use of male condoms (which cost only about 65 cents in a 12-pack), the study finds female condoms are still highly cost-effective -- $12.50 to $17 for every dollar spent.
Washington, D.C., is the epicenter of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the U.S.: One in 33 residents overall is living with HIV/AIDS, and among those in their 40s, the rate is 1 in 14.
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