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Prevention Now: Access to Female Condoms is Denied to the Women in Countries Most Affected by HIV

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 5, 2008
11:58 AM

CONTACT: Prevention Now!
Contact in Mexico: Serra Sippel, +1 (301) 768-7162
Mary Beth Hastings, +1 (301) 270-1182

 
Access to Female Condoms is Denied to the Women in Countries Most Affected by HIV
NGOs join together in international campaign to expand access to female condoms to stem the spread of HIV.
 
MEXICO CITY, Mexico - August 5 - Women leaders from around the world attending the XVII International AIDS Conference held a press conference today to call on governments and international donor agencies to provide greater access to female condoms to slow the spread of HIV.

"It is distressing that women make up half of those infected by HIV and policy makers are refusing to provide them with the tools they need to negotiate safer sex," said Serra Sippel, executive director of the Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE), international secretariat for Prevention Now!.

With rates of HIV/AIDS infection among women climbing to more than 60% in some regions, it is more important than ever that governments and international donor agencies invest in female condoms as an HIV/AIDS prevention method.

"African women, including female sex workers, need the knowledge and tools necessary to empower them to take prevention into their own hands," said Bernice Heloo, a Ghanaian and president of the Society for Women and AIDS in Africa International. "The U.S. government can demonstrate a commitment to HIV prevention among African women by increasing its support for the purchase, distribution and programming of female condoms, as well as support microbicides research and advocacy."

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has demonstrated notable leadership in promoting the female condom. Through its Global Female Condom Initiative, UNFPA is committed to scaling up to at least 23 countries, including establishing technical working groups and collaborating with key government counterparts and other stakeholders to develop and implement a country-driven female condom strategy. The Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs (DGIS) has also provided crucial international leadership through its Universal Access to Female Condoms campaign, which is active at the International AIDS Conference.

The female condom is a proven HIV and pregnancy prevention method, with acceptability as high as 96% among women and men of diverse backgrounds. But in 2007, fewer than 26 million female condoms were distributed worldwide - just one for every 100 women in Asia, Latin America and Africa between the ages of 15 and 49.

The press conference highlighted three leading advocacy campaigns and civil society efforts to increase access to female condoms, including the Prevention Now! Campaign, a global effort that brings together more than 150 organizations worldwide. The goal of the campaign is to dramatically increase access to female condoms and other existing prevention methods by demanding increased investment by governments and international donor agencies.

The Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE) was joined at the press conference by the Universal Access to Female Condoms Joint Program, a partnership of Dutch NGOs and the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs (DGIS), the Society for Women and AIDS in Africa (SWAA), and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

For more information about female condom sessions and activities at the XVII International AIDS Conference, click here for a schedule of female condom events.

The Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE) is a U.S.-based nongovernmental organization whose mission is to ensure that U.S. international policies and programs promote sexual and reproductive health and rights for women and girls worldwide.

Prevention Now! is a global campaign to ensure that governments and donor agencies provide funding to dramatically increase access to female condoms and other existing prevention options for women and men, to prevent the spread of HIV, reduce unintended pregnancy, and advance the sexual and reproductive health and rights of all people worldwide.

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