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Female condoms overlooked in fight against spread of HIV/AIDS

While scientists work to find the 'perfect' solution to preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS, a reasonable option--the female condom--is not being promoted, especially in African and southeast Asian countries where the deadly virus is most prevalent, according to a new study. "While we're waiting for perfection, people are dying," said Dr. Amy Kaler, a sociology professor at the University of Alberta.

In a paper published in the November/December issue of Culture, Health & Sexuality, Kaler presents findings that show female condoms are being dismissed as a viable method of protection for a number of reasons, including cost and availability in developing nations, and, in North America, for esthetic reasons.

These attitudes have serious implications for developing the next generation of barrier methods, such as revamped diaphragms and cervical caps to reduce transmission of AIDS.

"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.

In her paper, which examines the past eight years of female condom promotion in Africa, Kaler interviewed 34 health care workers from the United States and South Africa.

She discovered that "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.

The female condom is currently approved for one-time use only and at an average price of 56 cents each, they are proving t
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Contact: Bev Betkowski
beverly.betkowski@ualberta.ca
780-492-3808
University of Alberta
23-Nov-2004


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