The UAFC Joint Programme was strongly represented at the International Aids Conference in Vienna. With female condom demonstrations, workshops, a poster presentation and a press conference we informed delegates about female condoms: how to use them, why they are so important and what they could do to help us advocate. This was important, because what better moment to do advocacy towards the HIV/ AIDS community than during the single largest AIDS conference worldwide?
The demonstrations were a particular success. In a week time, over 2000 men and women visited our ‘booth’ in the Global Village Condomize Zone, many of whom had never seen a female condom before. Most expressed great interest, both in using female condoms and advocating for them. Many took with them the product information sheets of the different female condoms we demonstrated and the demonstration model we used. Twenty-eight (28) advocates from 15 different countries received the draft advocacy toolkit. They promised to give feedback about how they use it and possible improvements. The complaint most uttered by visitors was that the condoms are very hard to find or not available at all. Demand, we can conclude once more, is not the problem.
The fact that our female condom demonstrations drew so much attention, didn’t remain unnoticed by our partners (a.o. UNFPA, TCP and Durex) within the Condomize! Campaign either: on the last full day of the Conference, they asked us to give demonstrations in the main corridor as well. This, of course, almost doubled exposure for the female condom! Next to that, they also asked us to host a Condomize booth during the ICASA Conference in Ethiopia in December.
Another success was the press conference and ‘flash mob’ (rally) that preceded it: approximately 50 men and women chanted about wanting female condoms NOW, making a lot of noise and attracting attention of many delegates and journalists. Ten journalists came to the press conference, which resulted, among others, in female condom stories in the Zambia Daily Mail, Malawi Daily Mail, Cameroon Radio Television and placement of the press release on the (resulting in even more worldwide coverage, among others in different Canadian newspapers and the Arab Times!).
Something we stressed in all of our activities, was the importance of variety, both to give women choice and create competition and thus lower prices. In the poster presentation‘Breaking down the price of female condoms’ investment in WHO pre-qualification and USFDA approval of new female condoms – needed to get variety on the global market - was therefore one of the actions called for.
What can definitely also be called a success, is cooperation – both within the UAFC team and with partner organizations and members of the International Platform. Within the UAFC team, cooperation was harmonious. It was good to have a mixed team, which enabled us to give visitors first-hand information about all the different components of the UAFC joint programme. Cooperation with Platform Members CHANGE and Carol Nawina Nyirenda in organising the workshop and press conference and with Oxfam Ireland/ International for the latter was of great added value as well!
We can conclude that we have managed to inform and activate quite a lot of delegates at the IAC, something of which we can be proud. However, apart from in the opening speech by Michel Sidibé, ED of UNAIDS, female condoms were never mentioned in the plenary, and attention for female condoms in the media was overshadowed by attention for themicrobicide trials. Considering the fact that the female condom is, to date, the only woman-initiated protection method that is proven to be effective, both against HIV and unwanted pregnancies, they deserve a lot more attention – and investment!
We call on everyone to support us give female condoms the attention and investment they deserve – during the IAC plenary in 2012 and everywhere else!
More media coverage
UAFC at Women Deliver
Yvonne Bogaerts and Annet Neijmeijer attended the Women Deliver Conference in Washington, 7 - 9 June 2010. It has been an inspiring conference, where they were able to put the female condom under the attention of many.
What were their experiences? Yvonne has been able to attend various workshops and meetings and put emphasis on the importance of female condoms. Annet has done many demonstrations about the female condom. Here's a video of a demonstration.
Annet: "People from many different countries told me that they are aware of the important role that the female condom plays in protection and empowerment, but that female condoms are just not available. The will to use them is there, as is the conviction of the importance of the female condom by workers in the field of SRHR etc. Their question is how we can make the female condom available in their countries as well. Unfortunately we have no direct solutions for them, but answer that we work on advocacy and seek funding and that they can support us by advocating in their own countries as well."