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Condom wrap-up, new options for prevention
Good news for prevention of HIV and other STDs as a new year dawns. The second-generation FC2 Female Condom is available for purchase in the United States, which gives American women a nonlatex, female-controlled option in disease protection. Men also have new choices when it comes to nonlatex condoms; two options now are available in the United States.
The Food and Drug Administration gave approval in March 2009 for U.S. sale of the second generation of the female condom manufactured by the Female Health Company (FHC). With the introduction of a new proprietary nitrile material and a less labor-intensive manufacturing process, the company can offer the condom, known as the FC2, at a public health sector cost that is about 30% less than the original FC1 polyurethane condom. The FC2 offers another option to the male condom and is a suitable choice for those with latex sensitivity. Some women have found FC2 quieter than the first-generation FC Female Condom.
The company announced the U.S. product rollout at company at an October 2009 meeting of the Southeastern Urban Initiative for Reproductive Health, a coalition of reproductive health advocates from Southern states that is seeking increased federal funding for HIV prevention. Reception of the second generation condom by conference participants was "exciting," says Mary Ann Leeper, PhD, FHC senior strategic adviser.
FC2 may be purchased from the company's two public sector distributors: Total Access Group (www.totalaccessgroup.com) and Global Protection Corp., (www.globalprotection.com/store). In addition, FHC has launched a web site, www.fc2femalecondom.com, which includes tiered pricing information for ordering a minimum quantity of 25,000 units directly from the company. Price per unit will decline based on the volume purchased, state company officials. The maximum price to purchase FC2 from the company's distributors is $0.82/unit regardless of quantity, which represents approximately a 30% decrease from the unit price paid for FC1.
The new condom will be available in certain retail outlets. FHC is seeking a partner with appropriate experience to promote FC2 directly to consumers in the United States, says Leeper. Retail outlets are being identified, and the company is negotiating retail sale agreements, she adds.
The company is developing a seeding program to provide free allotments of FC2 Female Condoms to reproductive health service organizations as part of an introductory awareness and education program. The program will include training for health care providers on how to integrate female condom education into reproductive health counseling. Organizations may obtain further information on program enrollment by visiting www.fc2.us.com. The site also offers free resources, such as a training manual, "Safer Is Sexy," a counseling tips handout, and a fact sheet on negotiating condom use.
Men now have two more options when it comes to nonlatex condoms: Durex Avanti Bare and LifeStyles Skyn. Both condoms are made of polyisoprene. LifeStyles introduced its Skyn condom in July 2008, and the Durex Avanti Bare arrived on market shelves in August 2009.
Both condoms are available in all outlets where condoms are routinely sold. Most drugstores retail Avanti Bare 12 counts for $13.99, says Stephen Mare, senior brand manager for Durex Consumer Products.
How do polyisoprene condoms compare with polyurethane condoms? According to Mare, polyisoprene is much softer and more elastic than polyurethane. They are easier to don and provide a supple, natural feel for the user. The result is a very pleasant-feeling condom that most users prefer to polyurethane, Mare says. Polyisoprene condoms react similarly to latex condoms in the presence of oil, so providers should instruct users to use only water-based or silicone lubricants with them.
Are such condoms safe for use in people with latex allergies? While 1%-6% of the U.S. population are believed to be allergic to latex, the prevalence of latex sensitivity is believed to be much higher among health care workers who have repeated exposure to latex-containing medical devices, such as surgical and examination gloves.1 Ask patients whether they experience itching, rash, or wheezing after wearing latex gloves or inflating a balloon. If you suspect a patient has latex sensitivity, consider recommending synthetic condoms, and refer the patient for allergy skin testing. While latex condom use is contraindicated in patients with general latex sensitivity, synthetic and natural membrane condoms can be recommended for prevention of pregnancy. Only synthetic condoms should be recommended for prevention of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.1
"Dermatological testing shows that Durex Avanti Bare condoms have minimal potential for induced delayed hypersensitivity, also called 'Type IV allergy' and 'allergic contact dermatitis,'" states Mare. "Some people who are sensitive to natural rubber latex may also have a sensitivity to these condoms. Consumers who experience any allergic reaction should stop using them and see a doctor."