A qualitative exploration of female condom use among female university students in Durban, South Africa.
Mahlalela, Nomsa Brightness.
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In South Africa, the high levels of HIV/AIDS and unwanted pregnancy among young people especially women represent huge public health concerns. The female condom is the only available female-initiated device to give women protection from sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including HIV as well as pregnancy. Although efforts have been made to raise population awareness on female condom use, studies suggest low levels of female condom use in South Africa. The aim of the study was to explore the factors that facilitate and inhibit the use of female condoms among female university students. This is a qualitative study that drew on fifteen individual in-depth interviews with female condom users in Durban, South Africa. The results of the study highlight several factors that facilitate and inhibit the use of the female condom. Protection from sexually transmitted infections including HIV and pregnancy prevention facilitates the use of the device. In addition, students express positive attitudes towards the female condom and prefer it over other contraceptive methods because it offers them dual protection. Other factors that facilitate use include absence of side effects, and greater power and autonomy to initiate safer sex. Inadequate availability, partner objection, stigma, insertion difficulties, and lack of awareness serve as significant barriers to the consistent use of the female condom. Despite the wide availability of the female condom in South Africa, a number of factors exist that create barriers to the use of the device. Interventions should aim to address these challenges by educating both women and men on the use of the device and the benefits of using the female condom to increase acceptability, also increase availability and accessibility of female condoms.
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