Thursday, March 12, 2009

Female Condoms to Prevent HIV?

From my understanding, male condoms and other contraceptives warn that these products may not prevent sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy, or HIV/AIDS. But the article, “FDA approves inexpensive female condom,” touts that the new female condom, made with less expensive materials, will be targeted to “women in Africa and other areas where AIDS is a major concern.” According to the article, “Female Health’s initial Female Condom was approved in 1993 to prevent pregnancy, as well as sexually transmitted diseases, but has not been widely used in the United States, which made up just 10 percent of its 34.7 million unit sales in 2008.” The company hopes that the reduced costs “will help more groups offer more condoms in the hope of preventing HIV/AIDS and other STDs.”But is it probable to believe that women in Africa will be able to not only have access to this product, but will be able to use it? How logical is it to believe that a female condom will reduce the occurrence of HIV/AIDS in Africa? If this was possible, would it be safe to assume that men in Africa had access to male condoms, and yet did not use them? According to AVERT, “Relative to the enormity of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa, providing condoms is cheap and cost effective. Even when condoms are available, though, there are still a number of social, cultural and practical factors that may prevent people from using them. In the context of stable partnerships where pregnancy is desired, or where it may be difficult for one partner to suddenly suggest condom use, this option may not be practical.”AVERT also mentions that, “the distribution of condoms to countries in sub-Saharan Africa has also increased: in 2004 the number of condoms provided to this region by donors was equivalent to 10 for every man, compared to 4.6 for every man in 2001. In most countries, though, many more condoms are still needed. For instance, in Uganda between 120 and 150 million condoms are required annually, but less than 40 million were provided in 2005.”So, based on these statistics, would making female condoms accessible to females in Africa make a difference in the HIV/AIDS epidemic? Would these condoms have an impact on the US population affected by HIV/AIDS? Although condoms may reduce the risk of STDs, HIV/AIDS, and pregnancy, if not used properly, their effectiveness decrease. According to AVERT, “The main reason that condoms sometimes fail to prevent HIV/STD infection or pregnancy is incorrect or inconsistent use, not the failure of the condom itself. Using oil-based lubricants can weaken the latex, causing the condom to break. Condoms can also be weakened by exposure to heat or sunlight or by age, or they can be torn by teeth or fingernails. Also, remember to check the expiry date of your condom!”The article reports that the FDA allows the United States Agency to distribute the female condom to global programs dedicated to preventing the spread of the virus that causes AIDS. My question is that if male condoms have always been available in the US and other countries, why is the numbers for AIDS, teen pregnancy, and STDs still continually rising? Shouldn’t we try to educate on these issues, rather than just developing and selling products that may or may not reduce the risks of attracting these diseases or unexpected pregnancies? Don’t we have an ethical responsibility to prevent these risks through knowledge than through profit?

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