South African Health Department to Distribute 3 Million Female Condoms
September 1, 2006
South Africa's Department of Health on Thursday announced that it has allocated about $5 million this year to help achieve the goal of distributing three million female condoms in 2006, the SAPA/iafrica.com reports. The number of female condoms distributed in South Africa rose from 1.3 million in 2003 to 2.6 million in 2004, according to SAPA/iafrica.com (SAPA/iafrica.com, 8/31). South Africa is the world's second largest market for female condoms (SAPA/Pretoria News, 8/31). Department of Health spokesperson Sibani Mngadi in a statement said the funding increase was part of "deliberate efforts" to empower women to protect themselves from HIV transmission (SAPA/iafrica.com, 8/31). The government pays about 70 cents for each female condom and distributes them at no cost in the public health sector. Assessing the impact of female condoms on HIV transmission in the country is challenging, according to SAPA/Pretoria News. Mags Beksinska, executive director of the Reproductive Health and HIV Research Unit at the University of the Witswatersrand, said that a study is underway to examine the issue and that data soon will be available. According to Katy Pepper, African region program manager at the Female Health Foundation, the country initially responded well to female condoms, but barriers to their use persist -- including lack of access, low staff training, insufficient promotional materials, lack of understanding, bias among health workers, lack of knowledge among women about their physiology and cultural and social barriers (SAPA/Pretoria News, 8/31). In addition, female condoms cost 36 times more than male condoms (SAPA/iafrica.com, 8/31). Female condoms are "not the answer to the HIV pandemic," Pepper said, adding, "But the intention is to give men and women choices and women more options to protect themselves" (SAPA/Pretoria News, 8/31).
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