Why Female Condoms?

Health Need and Global Context

Women, men, and young people across the world have an urgent need for dual protection from unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections—including HIV—that could be addressed by female condoms.

  • 222 million women in developing countries who wish to avoid a pregnancy have an unmet need for contraceptives.
  • According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 1 million people acquire a sexually transmitted infection every day.
  • UNAIDS reports that in 2013, an estimated 2.1 million people became newly infected—the majority through sexual transmission.
  • A UNAIDS 2014 report estimates that young women 15–24 years old in sub-Saharan Africa are twice as likely as young men to be living with HIV.
  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Black women in the U.S. are disproportionately impacted by HIV, accounting for approximately two-thirds of women living with HIV.
  • The CDC reports that young Black gay men and other men who have sex with men comprise the overwhelming majority of new HIV infections in the U.S.
  • Globally, gay men and other men who have sex with men are 13 times more likely to be HIV-positive than the general population.
  • Female condoms can be used by women and men living with HIV to meet their family planning needs and claim their rights to healthy, mutually respectful, and fulfilling sexual relationships.

Female condoms are recognized by leading health authorities as an essential component of reproductive health and HIV programs, yet global access remains limited.

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) recommend counseling about and access to female and male condoms for family planning clients who are also at risk of HIV.
  • The U.S. government is one of the largest donor procurers of female condoms worldwide, and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) identifies female condoms as "unique in providing a female-controlled HIV prevention option."
  • CDC cites condom distribution programs as effective interventions for reducing HIV and STIs.
  • Despite the significant health need and commitment from international and national policymakers, FC availability is still very poor.
  • According to the United Nations Population Fund, one female condom was distributed for every 36 women worldwide in 2009.
  • In 2011, female condoms made up only 1.27% of total U.S. government condom shipments overseas.

Advantages of Female Condoms and Expanding Access

Female condoms increase protection options and offer unique and important benefits.

  • The female condom is the only tool currently available designed to offer woman-initiated protection against STIs, HIV, and unplanned pregnancy.
  • Women and men who engage in receptive vaginal and anal sex have limited options for protection. Female condoms help enable receptive partners of any gender to take greater control of their sexual health.
  • Many women cannot or do not want to use hormonal contraception. Female condoms may be a more viable option for these women because they provide effective, non-hormonal dual protection from unintended pregnancy and STIs, including HIV.
  • Female condoms complement and can be used for added protection from STIs/HIV along with anti-retroviral based HIV prevention—including pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP)—and long-acting reversible contraception.
  • Latex-free female condoms offer people with latex sensitivities an option for dual protection.
  • Pre-lubricated female condoms offer post-menopausal women a solution to vaginal dryness that can enhance their pleasure.

Female condoms offer acceptable and effective protection.

  • Numerous studies indicate that female condoms are acceptable among diverse groups of women and men.
  • Data show that female condoms are comparable to male condoms in preventing pregnancy and STIs, including HIV.
  • The female condom offers increased protection against skin-to-skin STIs by covering the external genitalia.
  • Female condoms contribute to higher rates of protected sex. Studies demonstrate that providing
  • both female and male condoms as part of a comprehensive prevention strategy increases the overall number of protected sex acts because people have multiple choices for protection.
  • When offered as part of a well-planned prevention program, female condoms can be cost effective. Mathematical modeling conducted in South Africa, Brazil, and the United States comparing the costs of female condom programming to the costs of HIV treatment show that female condom distribution can lead to substantial cost savings to the health sector.

Female Condoms are an empowerment tool.

  • Access to a wider array of prevention options, including female condoms, offer receptive partners greater ability to take an active role in their own sexual health.
  • The multiple prevention benefits of female condoms provide women with a unique and critical ability to reduce their risk of HIV and STIs while preventing unintended pregnancy.
  • Female condoms can help receptive partners negotiate safer sex in some situations when male condom use is not possible.

Female condoms can increase pleasure.

  • Female condoms can increase pleasure for both partners due to the characteristics of specific products, such as heat transmitting material (non-latex female condoms), stimulation from the inner and/or outer ring, wider size, and looser fit.
  • Unlike male condoms, female condoms are not erection dependent, enabling partners to remain close after climax and enjoy greater intimacy.
  • Female condoms can allow for greater spontaneity as they can be inserted vaginally minutes in advance of intercourse.
  • Partners can use female condoms as part of foreplay.