Ghana / Prevention: Ghanaian Women Rejects Female Condom

24 Aug, 2009

Women are limited in their ability to negotiate the use of the male condom, even in the face of all the forms that HIV/AIDS epidemic has moved into, a form in which married women and women in stable relationships are at the most risk. However, with the rising numbers of infections among women, there is a desperate need for female initiated barrier or method to place a check on the spread of the disease.

Relatively few women world wide have adopted the female condom, the only female initiated contraceptive method currently available that can prevent pregnancy and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs). Research confirms female condom’s effectiveness in preventing pregnancy and some STIs. However, data on the long term impact of female condom promotion and use in the HIV/AIDS and other STIs in the context of larger scale programmes are limited.

There are many people who can assess the female condom but the concern however is that rural folks, if they are given something they can not use or store, what then is the point. The female condom is the only female controlled barrier against HIV and is half way accepted by some men who refuse to use the male condom. To satisfy my curiosity on the use of the female condom, I hit the streets of Accra to interview and gather information on how knowledgeable and aware people are on the existent and use of the female condom.

Surprisingly, a handful of people are aware and have used it before, with reasons that the female condom can be put into place hours before any "action" occurs thus removing the “kill the passion” moment when a male condom is brought into play. An interview with some men indicated that they were excited upon the introduction of the female condom and relieved that they would not be the ones disrupting moments of passion to put on the male condom. This excitement was short lived as the "protection gear", in my rounds revealed that is missing from pharmacy shops and where it exist, is expired.

Yaw, a phone repairer told said he has used the female condom with a partner once and came to the conclusion that the inside ring rubs against the tip of the penis during intercourse, intensifying his orgasm. For him, it was the best sexual experience. The same, however, can not be said about Isaac a mechanic, who has also gone through the similar experience. He said the use of the female condom with his partner has never aroused his orgasm, “it only brought discomfort.”

As for Kofi, a driver's "mate" or bus conductor was of the view that the female condom has not been made popular. He said “I have not had any encounter with any woman with the use of the female condom, i dont even think about it when making love”. Most women I spoke to say the method of inserting the female condom is very embarrassing, making them feel bad when they talk about it much more using it.

When asked whether they are aware that the female condom is the only controlled barrier against HIV, some said they are aware but would prefer the men use the male condom, forgetting that they are at risk if the man refuses to use the male condom. An interview with Lamisi, an educated secretary with a reputable firm in Accra, suggested that she has tried a couple of times to use the female condoms but told me her partner complained of the noise it makes, and thus during sex they had to remove it to make the man feel comfortable.

A clear indication that women are weak in matters of the heart and in their sex life, To satisfy the man, she throws caution to the wind and risk contracting the dreadful disease. This indicates that the introduction of the female condom has not received much attention in the country by a lot of men and women who through an interview told me the female condom makes a lot of funny noise during intercourse, is uncomfortable, fulfillment was low and cost is also high (cost 20p when they were available).

These and other factors they complained about make the use of the female condom not very attractive to them. I realised from my interview with the people that a lot of women, for whom the female condom was introduced tend to forget that it is for protective and preventive measures that the female condom came into being. Health officials have advised women to use the female condom when their male partners refuse to use the male condom but most women will out of their so-called love for their partners forgo the use of the condom despite the fact that they stand a greater chance of contracting sexually transmitted diseases.

May be it is time for the Ministry of Health and all stakeholders to do a comprehensive educational campaign and reverse the negative preconceptions about the female condom and re-launch it since its awareness and use is dying gradually if not died out completely. Authorities should revamp the popularity of the female condom also known as the femidom the same way male condom has gained grounds. Authorities should sit up and do something about it.