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Taking Care of Business

Analysis Katelyn Bryant-Comstock, Research Associate

Earlier this year, I presented five reasons why people should support female condoms. To summarize: they give women options, they’re empowering and female-initiated, they’re improving with new technology, and they’re getting less expensive as demand increases.

Not convinced? Well, here’s one more: female condoms are incredibly cost-effective.

This week, the Universal Access to Female Condoms Joint Programme (UAFC) presented findings from a new report, The Business Case for Female Condoms, cataloging the social and economic benefits of investing in female condoms.

Using open-source modeling tools—and data from PSI-supported programs in Nigeria, Kenya, Cameroon, and Myanmar—the report quantifies expected costs of delivering female condoms, the economic benefits of female condoms, economic return on investment, estimated health outcomes, and cost-effectiveness thresholds.

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Let’s use Kenya as an example. If 1 million female condoms were distributed in Kenya through effective programming, we could avert:

  • 9,713 DALYs (which stands for disability-adjusted life-years, a measure of overall disease burden expressed as the number of years lost due to ill-health, disability or early death)
  • 1,939 unintended pregnancies
  • 265 unsafe abortions
  • 125 HIV infections

The total economic benefit of delivering these condoms is almost 4 million dollars, a return on investment of $1.94 for every $1 spent.

You may be thinking: can’t male condoms do the exact same thing as female condoms? People already know male condoms and are familiar with them, so why push female condoms? This is partially true, but women deserve more than one option. Female condoms won’t replace male condoms, but should be offered in addition to male condoms. From a rights perspective, we encourage a broad method mix so people can choose the method that’s right for them.  Having female condoms as part of that method mix broadens the choices that women and men have.

Another point that is often raised is that while method mix is good, female condoms are still more expensive to manufacture than male condoms. While this is true at the moment, costs continue to drop as more models come to market, and this competition will eventually drive prices down. If you price-out the cost-effectiveness of female condoms using the WHO-CHOICE model, all four countries used as case studies showed that female condoms were highly cost-effective.

With new models, and better education, female condoms are on the rise. To see just how popular and in-demand female condoms are around the world, check out FCMi+, a market intelligence website for female condoms where you can see functionality studies, and new female condoms that are currently in development.

We’ve seen the rise of multiple types of male condoms (ribbed, lubed, twisted, her pleasure, ultra-thin, etc.) and that is exactly what advocates are pushing for with the female condom. Greater variety, greater choice, greater demand, greater protection. The female condom is truly a great deal.

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