Experts examine female condom evidence and chart road for the future

October 14, 2005 by PATH

Ellen Cole,, tel +

Seattle, October 14, 2005—The female condom has tremendous potential to improve the health of women, and yet 12 years after it was first introduced, use is still low. Experts from 15 countries convened in Baltimore, MD, September 26 to 29 and agreed on a plan to accelerate access to and use of the female condom in developing countries.

During the three-day Global Consultation on the Female Condom, experts reviewed evidence of the female condom’s effectiveness in preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and learned about countries’ program experiences. Unpublished data from WHO studies presented at the conference confirm that the female condom is as effective as the male condom in preventing pregnancy, while other data suggest that making female condoms available can reduce HIV and other STIs.

PATH, an international, nonprofit organization headquartered in Seattle, WA, coordinated the meeting, bringing together key stakeholders from around the world with funding from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the United States Agency for International Development, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the Department for International Development in the United Kingdom. An advisory committee composed of all the donors, plus CONRAD, Family Health International, The Rockefeller Foundation, and WHO helped plan the event. Nearly 100 participants included donors, researchers, women’s health advocates, program planners, product procurement specialists, and ministry of health officials from Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, and Thailand.

Program implementers from Brazil, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria, South Africa, and Uganda shared their experiences with the female condom, and manufacturers provided updates about six female condom products in various stages of development. The meeting’s major outcome was a plan of action that—if fully implemented—will hasten the introduction of female condom products in low-resource settings.

The resulting plan of action focuses on global leadership, building a base for future large-scale efforts, information sharing, research, and product development:

  • Global leadership will include establishing an international consortium, promoting the case for countries to invest in the female condom, and strengthening south-to-south technology transfer.
  • “Making the case” for the female condom will require gathering compelling evidence based on cost-effectiveness analyses, epidemiological modeling, advocacy discourse, and efforts to garner support internationally and within countries.
  • Information sharing activities will encompass exploring a web-based resource sharing initiative; developing tools for training, monitoring, and evaluation; and determining other mechanisms for sharing knowledge about research and program experience.
  • Research efforts should focus on operational research within the context of programmatic implementation, such as devising strategies for overcoming provider bias, heightening women’s capacity to negotiate for safer sex, and promoting female condom use to men.
  • Product development activities will articulate a timeline for introducing new products and establishing a developers’ group that can facilitate exchange of technical information and address regulatory issues.

The Global Consultation on the Female Condom was the fifth in a series of meetings since 1993, when attempts to create strategies to promote and expand female condom use and access were addressed. This year’s consultation built upon the recommendations of these previous meetings, culminating in a discussion that will advance efforts to garner support for the female condom worldwide.

In closing remarks at the consultation, Steve Kraus, Chief of the HIV/AIDS Branch at UNFPA, said the key ingredients—momentum, strategic planning, and partnership—are in place to advance the female condom.

Presentations from the consultation are available online.

PATH is an international, nonprofit organization that creates sustainable, culturally relevant solutions, enabling communities worldwide to break longstanding cycles of poor health. By collaborating with diverse public- and private-sector partners, PATH helps provide appropriate health technologies and vital strategies that change the way people think and act. PATH’s work improves global health and well-being.