Times of India
03 August 2010
By Kounteya Sinha
New Delhi, India
India has decided to step up its female Condom (FC) programme in a big way in a bid to control the spread of HIV among women.
With nearly 50% of the 1.7 lakh fresh cases of HIV reported annually being women, the drive will be expanded from eight states to 17 in the next few months.
Though National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) buys FC at over Rs 20 a piece from Hindustan Latex Limited (HLL), it provides them to female sex workers (FSW) for only Rs 3.50 each.
As of now, FC is being made available to FSWs in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa and Rajasthan. The nine new states, where FC will be given to FSWs via target intervention groups, are Delhi, Gujarat, Karnataka, Haryana, Punjab, Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.
A decision on a nationwide initiative will be undertaken after reviewing the data from these 17 states. Since 2008, NACO has doled out 1.5 million FCs.
NACO officials said a year–long pre–programme acceptability and feasibility study since November 2006, involving 60,000 women across 13 sites 11 involving high–risk groups like sex workers and two family planning programmes in eight states had found that 60% women were re–purchasing condoms and over 98% of the users enjoyed the comfort level.
"The pilot project was highly successful, showing consistent use of FCs. We, therefore, propose to further scale–up the programme in two or three districts in each of the nine states. At present, India has 2.4 million HIV patients, of which nearly 40% are women. The Condom will not be commercially available very soon," said Gaurav Jain, who is in–charge of Condom promotion at NACO.
NACO director–general K Chandramouli said the objective to promote FCs is to empower FSWs to convince their clients or regular partners to use condoms, and address concern regarding unwillingness of male partner to use Condom.
Initially, the FC programme was implemented through select NGOs in six states.
The results from the pre–programme assessment indicated high levels of acceptance of FCs among sex workers and around 5% reduction in unprotected intercourse.
Experts say when male partner refuses to use a Condom, women need such self–initiated methods to protect themselves against unplanned pregnancies and HIV/AIDS.
India till recently imported FCs, which was a costly affair.
FC is the only female–initiated barrier method, which is both safe and effective if used correctly and consistently, that provides dual protection against transmission of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS, and unwanted pregnancy.
Globally, nearly 40% of new HIV victims are hapless homemakers who don't consider their husbands as a threat and commercial sex workers who are unableto convince their clients to use a condom.
Women, aged between 15 and 24, are at least three times more vulnerale than their male peers to be infected with HIV.
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