Female condom pilot project launched in Berbice
Guyana Chronicle – November 13, 2005
WITH prevention at the core of its fight against HIV/AIDS, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) on Wednesday last teamed up with the Guyana Responsible Parenthood Association (GRPA) and St Francis Community Developers to launch a female condom pilot project at the latter’s headquarters, Rose Hall Town, Corentyne, Berbice.
The female condom is expected to provide women with the option of having greater control in negotiating condom use. But the device is relatively unknown, generally unavailable and expensive and men are uncomfortable with it because of their culture, traditions, values and norms. Last week, the Sunday Chronicle reported on the high cost of the female condom at some pharmacies and its unavailability at others which are willing to sell at a cheaper price.
With the launch of the pilot project in the Ancient County, against the drastic increase in prices that has promoted fears of a major setback in the prevention campaign, the female condoms will be more readily available and reasonably priced there.
“Prevention is the centerpiece of UNFPA’s fight against HIV/AIDS – including emphasis on abstinence outside marriage, and faithful within,” UNFPA Country Director, Ms. Patrice LeFleur said at the launching.
UNFPA is an agency which provides population assistance to enhance the quality of life of every man, woman and child, through programmes geared to help individuals plan their families, avoid undesired pregnancies, undergo pregnancy and child birth safety, avoid sexually transmitted infections and combat discrimination and violence against women.
The international organisation is guided by the Programme of Action (POA), adopted by 179 Governments at the International Conference in Population and Development held in Cairo, Egypt in 1994, from which the main goal included the reduction of HIV infection by 25 per cent by 2010.
According to the UNFPA officer, disease prevention also relies on safe sexual behaviour and making sure that condoms are readily available, widely and correctly used, thus empowering women to protect themselves and their children, while encouraging men to be responsible family and community members. Many couples and individuals, she said, currently lack choices on effective and safe means of planning their families, while others lack information on the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases.
LeFleur reminded the audience that investment in reproductive health saves and improves lives, slows the spread of HIV/AIDS and encourages gender equality, which, in turn, helps stabilise population growth, allows for greater investment in education and in human resources, while reducing poverty.
St Francis Community Developers, through which the project was launched, is the parent body and coordinating office of 20 NGOs in Regions Five (Mahaica/Berbice) and Six (East Berbice/Corentyne) referred to as the Friends of St Francis. It was formerly known as St Francis Xavier Roman Catholic Youth Club and was established by 12 youths in July 24, 1986.
The club’s services include counselling, testing, care, support and referrals of HIV/AIDS and STI issues, support to children’s homes and families in crisis, advocacy and support for the poor and needy, group capacity building for community groups, skills training programmes, women and children empowerment, micro credit and small business enterprise schemes, among others.
Some of the awards achieved by the organisation and their members are Youth of the Year Award (1998-99), First runner-up Commonwealth Caribbean Youth of the Year Award (1998 and 1999), Commonwealth Youth Service Award 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1995 and again in 2000 and 2001.
The President of the Club, Mr. Alex Foster, was selected as one of the most influential young social entrepreneurs in the world. He is a member of the Common Futures Forum, and the Guyana Federation of UNESCO Club and is accredited to the United Nations Headquarters, New York as an NGO representative.
Among those at the function to launch the project were members if the Diplomatic Corps, representatives of government ministries and non-governmental organisations, and students from school on the Corentyne. (Jeune Bailey Van-Keric)
The female condom
The female condom prevents semen (sperm) from entering the women’s body and also protects the male partners from being in contact with the vaginal fluids.The protective sexual device, which is made from polyurethane, is cylindrical and has two flexible rings at either end. One of the rims is used to insert the devices into the vagina and keep it in place (diaphragm), while the other rim stays outside the vagina.It is for vaginal insert only and must be imbedded prior to sexual intercourse, after which it must be removed and thrown away.The female condoms offers 87 per cent protection base in actual use for six months and is readily available from Family Planning clinics or centres offering sexual and reproductive services.Compared with other contraceptives, the preventative aid for the fairer sex, also have advantages and disadvantages.The benefits of its usage are:* It does not constrict the penis as the male condom.* It is sensitive for the males, which may be better.* Does not reduce pleasure for women.* The polyurethane allows for the transfer of body heat which improves sensation.* It offers greater protection against genital ulcers diseases, (herpes, chancroid).* It is female controlled.* It is felt to be more convenient than other female barrier methods (foams, jellies, creams)The disadvantages, however, fewer, are that the condoms are expensive, it is felt to be unappealing as it covers the external female genitalia, it is though to be noisy during use, and may be pushed into the vagina depending on the vigour during use.