by: Kim Whipkey
originally posted on www.aids2008.com

Young people want female condoms. They are seeking information and better access to them. They are demanding the only effective and currently available method to prevent HIV that young women and women
can initiate themselves.

This groundswell of interest in female condoms surfaced at the Mexico
YouthForce Pre-Conference, particularly during a workshop I co-facilitated around expanding prevention options for women and girls. To my elation, virtually all of the 40 workshop participants had heard of female condoms, and more than half had seen or touched one. For female condom advocates, this is a rare and exciting encounter.

But the sobering refrain throughout the pre-conference was that while
many youth are passionate about female-initiated prevention options, including the female condom, they remain largely inaccessible in a wide range of countries, even for young women and men who go out of their
way to find them.

One young woman from Mexico visited ten stores in her local community before she was able to find one that sold female condoms. Yet another Mexican woman passed me a hand-written note during my presentation, stating that her peer education organization is interested in obtaining female condoms but doesn’t know to whom or where to turn, or how to pay for them.

A young man from Guyana and a young woman from Kenya shared similar stories. They reported that many young people in each country have heard of female condoms, but the product simply is not accessible for
youth. In the limited places where female condoms are available, they are costly. Whereas Guyana and Kenya are both PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) focus-countries, this is an inexcusable tragedy. Lives could be saved if female condoms were in the hands of young women and men in Guyana, Kenya, and in countries around the world.

My organization, the Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE), works to ensure that U.S. international policies and programs promote sexual and reproductive health and rights for women and girls worldwide. We believe United States can and should do more to increase global access to female condoms. In this respect, CHANGE hosts the Prevention Now! Campaign–a global campaign to advocate for dramatically increased access to female condoms and other existing options for women and men NOW!

For those at the International AIDS  Conference, we encourage you to visit the Prevention Now! Campaign at the Global Village’s Women’s Networking Zone. There you can try out (and try on!), the female condom and sign the petition to urge greater access to female condoms
globally.

For more information, please visit www.preventionnow.net and download
Saving Lives Now: Female Condoms and the Role of U.S. Foreign Aid, a
new report from CHANGE that documents U.S. investment in global female
condom procurement, distribution and programming.

Together, we can help make female condoms available and accessible to all!

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