October 22, 2009
A new and improved version of the female condom has become available in the United States. It's called FC2 -- and according to HIV advocates and other female-condom consumers, there is reason to sing its praises.
First, FC2 is priced much more cheaply than its predecessor. FC1 sold for as much as $4 per condom -- compare that to the male condom, which can sell for as little as 50 cents apiece and is often distributed for free at clinics, street fairs, school nurses' offices and other venues. FC2 sells in bulk for 82 cents or less per item (depending on quantity), though a retail price has yet to be set, according to a recent post from the Our Bodies, Our Selves blog.
Second, though the female condom is widely used in a number of countries outside the U.S., women in the States have often complained that it made a lot of noise. According to Audacia Ray of the International Women's Health Coalition, FC1 has a tendency to "squeak during use (not sexy)." Reuters reports that FC2 is made of softer material that should cut down on noise and be more acceptable in intimate situations.
According to Reuters, FC2 is already available to nonprofit organizations and health departments. In addition, because HIV/AIDS rates in the U.S. South are among the highest in the country and women are heavily impacted, Female Health Company -- the maker of FC1 and FC2 -- says it will initially give away batches of FC2 to many sexual health organizations in southern states.
There is hope the new lower-cost female condom will be embraced by women generally, but particularly in southern United States.
HIV/AIDS rates among U.S. women have climbed in recent years, especially among women of color, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"It's time to provide women in heavily impacted communities with expanded access to affordable women-controlled options, and the female condom becomes that choice," said HIV/AIDS advocate Dazon Dixon Diallo in a press release issued by Female Health Company. "Women will use it if they have it."
It will take some time for FC2 to fan out to retail spots across the U.S.; for instance, the drugstore CVS reportedly will make FC2 available on its shelves in December of this year, starting with its stores in Washington, D.C., where HIV/AIDS rates rival those found in some African nations.
The official FC2 Web site has more information on organizations in throughout the U.S. that might carry FC2. The Female Health Company has also released an information sheet and how-to video that further illustrate how FC2 works and how it should be used.