Chicago, IL — Chicago AIDS advocates want you to "put a ring on it"—no matter who you are.
"The reality is gay men comprise many living with and at risk for HIV," AFC policy manager Jessica Terlikowski said.
The grassroots campaign, which includes a coalition of almost 20 local organizations, is very inclusive and raises awareness about the female Condom as a safe sex tool for any receptive partner. Both men and women can use female condoms for anal and vaginal sex.
As opposed to other possible prevention tools being researched—such as microbicides—the female condoms is tool that people can take advantage of now. AFC saw the introduction of the FC2 Female Condom—the second generation female Condom and the only FDA approved, receptive partner-initiated HIV prevention method available—as a great opportunity to teach people about their options.
"We wanted to take advantage of something we can put in people's hands now," Terlikowski said.
For years, female condoms have been touted as a useful tool for women who can't negotiate Condom use in a relationship. However, men can also find themselves in those situations, Terlikowski said, making the female condom a great option for them, too. For those who can negotiate safe sex, the female condom is just additional arsenal in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
"We deserve access to as many prevention tools that we can get our hands on," Terlikowski said. "This is an opportunity to embrace a new and improved option and push it as a viable tool."
Despite its name, many gay men are interested in learning more about how they can use female condoms. Community activist RJ Hadley recently finished doing prevention outreach work for
"There was always interest in them," Hadley said. "We'd say, hey, you're going up there, just take one or two of them. We'd refer to them as ‘insertive' or ‘receptive' condoms."
The female condom was first introduced in the early ‘90s. It failed to catch on as a popular tool, in part because of its expense and limited availability. Although the FDA didn't approve its use among gay men, the community, hungry for more options, started using female condoms anyway.
"The name is actually really deceptive," Terlikowski said.
During his experience conducting outreach, Hadley said he felt that many gay men weren't turned off by the name.
"Most people want to protect themselves, no matter what it is called," Hadley said.
FC2 is the new and improved, second generation female condom. It's more affordable and easier to use. AFC is working with a coalition of groups to build awareness and promote its use. Several local agencies, like Center on Halsted, are distributing free female condoms.
"You rarely get a second chance to do something," Terlikowski said. "This time, we are educating people in a way that maximizes the reach of it. We don't want to pigeon-hole it. It's for everybody—men, women, trans, receptive partners—everybody."