Women's experiences with the female condom : a case of Lavumisa female commercial sex workers, in Swaziland.
The female condom has the potential to protect the health of millions of women at risk of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, as well as unwanted pregnancies. Increased use of the female condom and its positive impact on health is therefore substantial, particularly in the context of the growing feminisation of HIV/AIDS epidemic and high maternal mortality as well as high unmet need for contraception. However, female condoms in Swaziland do not seem to have attracted much attention. Using sex workers, this study aimed to explore the factors that facilitates and inhibits use of the female condom. Their main reasons for using the female condom were protection from sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy prevention. The qualitative interviews revealed that women like the female condom and prefer it over the male condom because it offers them more options and moreover they control its use. Other factors that facilitate its use include the fact that it can be inserted up to eight hours before intercourse and that it can be negotiated as a contraceptive. Partner objection, cultural and social beliefs, and limited availability served as barriers to the use of the device. Some women reported secret use, but a majority had to negotiate its use. Although women have to negotiate its use with their sexual partners, the fact that the female condom provides women with an independent method of protection that they can use on their own increases their ability to control their sexual health. The study indicates the potential benefits of female condom use in increasing protected sex acts.