There have been a number of exciting female condom product launches since our last update. WomanCare Global and Population Services International (PSI) have worked together to market the Woman's Condom, developed by PATH, in several new countries. The Whisper Woman's Condom was launched in Malawi in October 2015.
Through a partnership with Human Network International, a toll-free number and mobile phone application were also launched to support the introduction of the Whisper and integrated with the product marketing campaign. People can use a toll-free number to hear audio recordings, or elect to receive text messages, containing accurate information about the use and safety of the Whisper Woman's Condom.
WomanCare Global and PSI collaborated again in March of this year to introduce the Maximum Diva Woman's Condom in Zambia. Researchers from the non-profit Innovations for Poverty Action will evaluate the impact of two marketing approaches during the Maximum Diva roll-out in Lusaka. City districts will be randomized to receive either the standard marketing approach using billboards and a social media push, or the standard approach supplemented by an interpersonal communications (IPC) intervention. This intervention incorporates information sessions led by local young adults who will use discussion, role play, and skits to educate people about the Maximum Diva Woman's Condom.
In early April, Indian manufacturer HLL Lifecare Limited launched a latex female condom, the Velvet, at India's National Family Planning Summit. HLL Lifecare Limited previously manufactured the Confidom polyurethane female condom and an earlier iteration of the Velvet made with nitrile rubber. The use of latex in the current version of the Velvet female condom means that materials can be sourced locally and it can be produced at a much lower cost than with synthetics.
With the addition of two new types of female condoms to the list of products prequalified by The World Health Organization (WHO)/United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the number of female condoms approved for procurement by international organizations has doubled. In March, PATH announced that the Woman's Condom was prequalified and HLL Lifecare Limited confirmed that the Velvet female condom has also been awarded this status. Prequalification allows products to be purchased for distribution in the public sector by international organizations such as UN agencies and national governments. Broadening the scope of available female condoms will go a long way towards meeting the UNAIDS goal of making 20 billion male and female condoms available by 2020 in middle- and low-income countries. As outlined in their 2016-2021 strategy, UNAIDS is encouraging funders and governments to invest in female and male condom production and distribution in order to prevent HIV and STI transmission and unintended pregnancy.
PROTECTION OPTIONS FOR WOMEN PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT PARTNERSHIP
A series of reports released in January 2016 detail the achievements of the Protection Options for Women Product Development Partnership (POW PDP), a global project established by PATH in 2011 with financial support from the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in order to promote sexual and reproductive health through expanding access to the female condom. Partners include PATH; Shanghai Dahua Medical Apparatus Co., Ltd; CONRAD; and Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Development. Product approvals for the Woman's Condom have been secured in Europe, China (O'Lavie), Malawi (Whisper), South Africa (V Condom), and Zambia (Maximum Diva). POW PDP has also evaluated and reported on the acceptability, effectiveness, and uptake of the Woman's Condom after introduction in China and South Africa. As PATH highlights in their report Developing Sustainable Markets for the Woman's Condom, female condom distribution has quadrupled globally during the past decade. In recognition of the need to continue improving access and supply, PATH has announced that they will offer free use of technologies covered by the Woman's Condom patent for use in other female condom products.
GLOBAL FEMALE CONDOM CONFERENCE
To learn more about current media, research, and policy issues related to the female condom, check out the videos and publications from the Global Female Condom Conference 2015, now available online. Hosted by the Universal Access to Female Condoms Joint Programme in partnership with MatCH Research, the Center for Health and Gender Equity, and PSI, the three day conference was held in Durban, South Africa in December 2015. Research, marketing, advocacy, and communications topics presented during the program are available for those who were unable to attend.
The FC2 condom and the work of the Female Health Company in Kenya were featured on the documentary television series Big Questions. An episode entitled Empowering Kenya originally aired February 19 on WTTW Prime/PBS Chicago and is now available online. Interviews with Female Health Company staff and officers of national and local partner agencies center on the development and history of the FC2 and its impact on efforts to reduce HIV and STI transmission. The Caya diaphragm was also recently highlighted by the online publication Tech Insider. The article details the user-friendly approach behind the product's design and the challenges PATH faced in promoting a new type of cervical barrier method. An AlterNet.org feature on the diaphragm traces fluctuations in its availability and popularity in the United States and examines the impact of the discontinuation of the Ortho All-Flex.