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Female condom rarity for rural women (SA)

The Star (South Africa), August 17, 2010

Fifteen years after the female condom was first introduced, many women in rural areas have yet to see one.
The condoms were meant to empower women to take personal control of their sex lives, protecting themselves from sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies.
"It's crucial for women to have access to female condoms," said Tian Johnson, research, advocacy and special projects adviser at the Thohoyandou Victim Empowerment Programme in Limpopo.
He said pricing was the main barrier because female condoms cost much more than male condoms - about R8 per female condom as opposed to about 40 cents per male condom.
"However, this is not an excuse as the Department of Health manages to fund male circumcision and male condoms. Why are women being sidelined?" he asked.
More than 350 million male condoms are distributed nationally each year, compared to only 3.5 million female condoms, according to Johnson. Provincial health spokeswoman Roleta Lebelo confirmed that the distribution was just as skewed in Limpopo. She said 38 000 females condoms were distributed last year, whereas 54 600 male condoms were distributed.
"This year we plan to increase the distribution of female condoms four-fold," she said, adding that more male condoms would also be distributed.
Lebelo said the department held imbizos throughout the province each year to raise awareness about using condoms as the primary way to prevent the spread of HIV/Aids.
A farm worker from a citrus farm in Hoedspruit, 40-year-old Elizabeth Malatjie, said she had not seen female condoms, but believed it would help many women who lived and worked on farms because there were men who refused to wear male condoms.
"When the mobile clinics come, the men receive a whole box of condoms, while women get just two," she complained. "I heard about the female condom over the radio… but where do I get it?"
Malatjie said that mobile clinics sometimes did not arrive at all.

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