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24 November 2004
Female Condom Overlooked In AIDS Fight

In a paper published in Culture, Health & Sexuality, Dr. Amy Kaler of the University of Alberta, suggests that female condoms are being dismissed as a viable method of protecting against HIV, especially in African and southeast Asian countries where the deadly virus is most prevalent. Kaler said that while scientists were working to find the 'perfect' solution for preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS, other reasonable options, like the female condom, are not being promoted. "Female condoms, and female barrier methods in general, are a very important avenue of exploration for HIV protection that has been prematurely closed off," Kaler said.

Kaler said that female condoms were not recognized as potentially cheap and efficient barriers to the virus. "Female condoms, like other reproductive technologies, are judged against the 'gold standard' of the birth control pill: a discreet, convenient 100 per cent effective method for achieving a reproductive health goal.

Other technologies that fall short of this ideal are dismissed as unworkable or inadequate," she said. Condoms are traditionally seen by reproductive health care workers as second-rate methods of barrier control against pregnancy, and so are not as strongly promoted as they should be for protection against HIV/AIDS.

Kaler said that for women in North America, the female condom was almost an object of ridicule, and an uncomfortable reminder that disease lurks. The device needs to be marketed in such a way that women will see it as an empowering, even fashionable way to approach the issue of their own reproductive health. "Products need to be re-positioned by association with glamour and sexiness, rather than safety and protection," Kaler said.

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