The Female Condom and the MDGs
Potential of the Female condom
The MDGs on child mortality and morbidity, maternal mortality and morbidity rates as well as HIV/AIDS will not be attained if existing technologies, such as the female condom, remain out of reach of women who need it. Since gender inequity is an important driver of the HIV epidemic, the feminisation of AIDS has become a reality: 76% of HIV-positive youth in sub-Saharan Africa are female. Women and girls face the consequences of unprotected sex and bear a huge burden of unwanted pregnancy and risk of infection. Universal access to female condoms therefore deserves to be prioritised.
The female condom has been tested in numerous pilot projects and studies have repeatedly shown high levels of acceptability for female condoms. However, little has been done in making this commodity accessible. High prices (up to 30 times the price of the male condom) and very limited or irregular access have inhibited the female condom from becoming an accepted reproductive health commodity. This is a missed opportunity and can not be justified, since the female condom is the only female- initiated method that offers dual protection: it protects both against unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.
UAFC Joint Programme
The UAFC Joint Programme is a 3-year programme (mid-2008 – mid-2011) that contributes to the following aims:
- Promote gender equality and empower women (MDG 3);
- A decrease in the number of unwanted pregnancies, and through this a decrease in the number of maternal deaths (MDG 5), and
- A decrease in the STI incidence, including HIV transmission, and through this a decrease in the number of AIDS deaths (MDG 6);
The UAFC programme has three components with their specific goals:
Research and Development and positioning of the product on the market. The implementation of this component will have succeeded when more companies start producing a variety of female condoms and bring them on the market for a lower, affordable price.
Three large-scale female condom country programmes. The large scale country programmes are locally owned and steered by a national steering committee, and implemented by a set of local actors: a combination of civil society organizations, the government, UN-agencies and the private sector. The country plans are successfully implemented if the three countries have succeeded in increasing demand and creating access to an affordable female condom in a sustainable way.
International advocacy and Linking and Learning. International advocacy has been successfully implemented when political support for the female condom and structural increase in financial support for female condom programming has been generated. Linking and Learning purpose is to render more effective implementation of large-scale female condom programmes.
Current state of affairs of the programme
Separate plans with operational budgets have been developed for the R&D component; for two of the three large scale country programmes and for the international advocacy component. Implementation of the activities has been started in the end of 2008, beginning of 2009.
The country programmes are implemented in Nigeria and Cameroon. The plan for the third country programme will be drawn up as soon as the third country and the counterparts in this country have been selected.
Multiple donor programme
UAFC Joint Programme is a multiple donor programme. Current donors are the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs; DANIDA, the Hewlett Foundation, SIDA and NORAD. The programme is still active to interest more donors in funding of the different programme components.
The UAFC Joint Programme is an initiative of Oxfam Novib and a partnership between four Dutch organizations: Oxfam Novib, World Population Foundation, I+solutions and Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The functional complementarities of the partners as well as their respective networks and experience determine the added value of the collaboration. I+solutions brings in expertise and experience in the field of pharmaceutical supply chain management, which is valuable in strengthening local partners’ capacity. The organisation also provides the indispensable link to the private sector. WPF has a convincing track record as the advocacy agency for reproductive and sexual health. Its expertise and experience is essential for international and national advocacy for the female condom. Oxfam Novib is capable to be the main contracting organisation to implement this new type of innovative inclusive female condom programming. The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs (and other donors) bring in the ability to generate political clout.
On the level of the three country programmes partnerships are established between NGOs, governmental organisations, multilateral organisations like the UNFPA, community based organisations and for example faith based organisations.
The UAFC Joint Programme is strategically led by an International Steering Group. The mandate of the Steering Group is to oversee the overall direction and strategy of the Programme, and to ensure that its implementation remains on course.