Female Condom Important Tool in Zika Prevention
The CDC advises that Zika can be passed through sex from a person who has Zika to his or her sex partners, with condoms reducing the chance of contracting Zika from sex. Such condoms include both male and female condoms.
- The FC2 female condom consists of a nitrile (non-latex) sheath and outer ring, and a polyurethane inner ring. It includes no spermicidal additives and is lubricated with a silicone-based lubricant inside and out. It provides protection from both unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.
- By offering the female condom, providers can give women the only dual protection method that women can initiate and use without their partner’s active participation.
When talking about the Zika virus with patients, clinicians mention that the disease can be transmitted through sex, which includes vaginal, anal, and oral sex, and the sharing of sex toys. But when it comes to transmission prevention, how often do clinicians include the female condom in the conversation?
The Zika virus can be transmitted through sex from a person who already has Zika to his or her partners. Both male and female condoms can reduce the chance of contracting Zika from sex. The CDC recommends that pregnant women not travel to areas with Zika. If a pregnant woman plans to travel to or lives in an area with Zika, she should speak with her healthcare provider about how to prevent Zika transmission. Women who are considering pregnancy and live in areas with reported outbreaks or the potential for outbreaks of Zika, along with their partners, should work with their healthcare providers to craft a pregnancy plan so the couple knows the risks and methods to reduce them, according to the CDC.
Since the onset of the Zika virus outbreak, The Female Health Company, a division of Veru Healthcare of Miami, has worked with national and local partners to ensure that women are aware of and have access to female condoms as a method to help prevent the transmission of Zika through sexual contact.
“We have been putting the FC2 female condom into the prevention conversation,” says Judy Palmore, MEd, senior education and partnership manager at The Female Health Company.
The Female Health Company has provided FC2 condoms for health department Zika kits, sent FC2 educational supplies and materials to help providers better educate their communities, and joined the discussions at several high-level decision-making meetings during which Zika prevention strategies were discussed and solidified. All of these efforts have been made to keep the FC2 condom on the “prevention radar,” Palmore says.
Women cannot use the FC2 as a prevention tool unless they have access to and education about the product, Palmore notes. The Female Health Company is working with national and local partners to ensure FC2 education and product is available throughout communities, she adds.
Offer a Female-controlled Option
The FC2 condom consists of a nitrile (non-latex) sheath and outer ring, and a polyurethane inner ring. It includes no spermicidal additives, and is lubricated with a silicone-based lubricant inside and out.
The female condom is a user-friendly, dual-protection tool, preventing both HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, as well as unintended pregnancy. Data indicate its effectiveness is comparable to that of the male condom,1-3 and research shows high acceptability among both women and men.4-5 The female condom exhibits perfect use (5% of women experiencing unintended pregnancy in first year of use) and typical-use (21% of women experiencing unintended pregnancy in first year of use) failure rates, compared to 2% and 18% respective rates for the male condom.1
By offering the female condom, providers can provide to women the only dual-protection method they can use without their partner’s active participation, providing women with control over safer sex and their health.
Get Out the Prescription Pad
Providers must include the condom message in providing family planning care in the context of Zika. A toolkit developed by the Office of Population Affairs is designed to help implement recent CDC recommendations for providing Zika-related care to nonpregnant women and men of reproductive age. (Read more about the toolkit in the September 2016 Contraceptive Technology Update article, “Pregnancy Prevention Toolkit Helps Prevent Spread of Zika Virus,” available at: http://bit.ly/2kU5EE5. The toolkit is available for download at: http://bit.ly/2fCDkCv.)
One important way to increase protection is to write prescriptions for the female condom. The Affordable Care Act only requires insurance plans to cover prescribed female contraceptives without cost-sharing, so writing a prescription for the method will remove the financial burden for those with insurance coverage. (For more information, The Female Health Company offers a fact sheet available at: http://bit.ly/2khn37A.)
For providers who may need a refresher course on the female condom, Palmore suggests viewing online video resources at: http://bit.ly/2l52NtV. The CDC offers an easy-reading handout on the method at: http://bit.ly/2keLUxB.
- Trussell J. Contraceptive failure in the United States. Contraception 2011;83:397-404.
- French PP, Latka M, Gollub EL, et al. Use-effectiveness of the female versus male condom in preventing sexually transmitted disease in women. Sex Transm Dis 2003;30:433-439.
- Vijayakumar G, Mabude Z, Smit J, et al. A review of female-condom effectiveness: Patterns of use and impact on protected sex acts and STI incidence. Int J STD AIDS 2006;17:652-659.
- Fontanet AL, Saba J, Chandelying V, et al. Protection against sexually transmitted diseases by granting sex workers in Thailand the choice of using the male or female condom: Results from a randomized controlled trial. AIDS 1998;12:1851-1859.
- Farr G, Gabelnick H, Sturgen K, Dorflinger L. Contraceptive efficacy and acceptability of the female condom. Am J Public Health 1994;84:1960-1964.
Experts recommend discussing, making available this lesser-known contraceptive.
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