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United Nations Urged to Support Access to Female Condoms


June 8, 2011 - NEW YORK, NY

Today, hundreds of AIDS activists, including students from SMART Youth, gathered at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza for a boisterous rally featuring West African drummers and a female condom giveaway to voice their support for female condoms. Today is the 10th anniversary of the UN High Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS and this year, Member States are adopting a new Declaration to guide and sustain the global AIDS response, which rally organizers hope will include improved access to female condoms.

The Universal Access to Female Condoms Joint Programme (UAFC) organized the event, which featured a display of hundreds of paper dolls with hand written messages from women and men around the world. Volunteers from SMART Youth, a development and leadership program for youth living with or affected by HIV/AIDS for ages 13 - 22, carried vertical banners displaying the dolls as a backdrop to the speakers, which included UAFC coordinator Lucie Van Mens, Dr. Flavia Cuerneia of Mozambique, Member of Parliament of the Netherlands Kathleen Ferrier, Mexican AIDs activist Eugenia Lopez Uribe and New York AIDs activist Levon Ford.

"Despite the frequent claims of policy makers in the field of HIV/AIDS, there is a huge demand for female condoms. This demand comes from women who currently have no other way to prevent HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. It also comes from men who find female condoms more pleasurable to use than male condoms. We are asking delegates who influence world policy on HIV/AIDS here, today, to listen to the voices of these women and men and translate these demands into action," said Lucie Van Mens, Universal Access to Female Condoms.

Currently, less than 1% of all condoms distributed globally are female condoms. This shortage makes female condoms unavailable or unaffordable to the vast majority of people worldwide who need them for protection against HIV, other sexually transmitted diseases and Pregnancy. Women and girls account for over half of the people living with HIV and most become HIV infected while having unprotected sex. Female condoms are currently the only female-initiated HIV prevention tool that has been approved by national regulatory bodies and the World Health Organization.

Since 1998, the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) has distributed free female condoms to populations in New York City at highest risk for HIV. In 2010, the NYC Condom Availability Program distributed over 1 million female condoms to residents of New York City. "I look forward to the time when female condom use becomes the norm, when a couple can share in the decision about which condom to use," said Dr. Monica Sweeney, the Health Department's Assistant Commissioner for HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control. "It is our collective responsibility to make sure that every woman who wants to use a female condom has one available regardless of her resources."

The Paper Doll campaign was born out of a desire to communicate the voices of women around the world. The campaign is being implemented by 30 organizations in 17 countries in North and South America, Africa, Asia, Europe and Australia/Oceania. One partner in Kenya reported that, "Our dolls are complete and I was able to take them to some of the women (grandmothers who care for HIV Orphans) I work with in Nairobi's Kibera Slums. They were very excited about the idea and vowed to sell it [the concept of female condoms] to their children, grandchildren as well as neighbours and church members." - Alice Machichi, Society for Women and AIDS in Kenya.

Messages written on the paper dolls, themselves, include:

"Female condoms, where were you when my mum died, where you when my sister died, when my aunt died. I hope that they can be accessible so that other aunties and sisters will be protected from sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS. I am 15 years old." - Kenya

"Last year I suspected my boyfriend was cheating but was afraid to ask him to start using a condom. Thank goodness I learned about female condoms, and he never complained. He left me a few months ago. I just heard that he has HIV. I am glad I had control." - Boston, MA

"We're tired of asking permission to save our lives." - Chicago, IL

Sexually, female condoms can increase pleasure for both parties. Lubrication ensures ease of use for men and the outer ring is placed strategically to increase stimulation for women. Female condoms are also often preferred by men who have difficulty maintaining an erection with male condoms.

PHOTOS OF RALLY AND DOLLS AVAILABLE : PLEASE CONTACT ANNETTE LARKIN at larkinannette@yahoo.com or 703.772.6427

About the Universal Access for Female Condoms Joint Programme (UAFC)

The UAFC is a partnership of four Dutch organizations: Oxfam Novib, Rutgers/World Population Foundation, i+solutions and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Paper Doll Campaign has been adopted to date by 30 organizations in 17 countries in North and South America, Africa, Asia, Europe, and Australia/Oceania. For more information on the Paper Doll Campaign, check out the Facebook page of Zawadi Smartlove (the first Paper Doll to be launched). For more information on UAFC, go to: www.condoms4all.org.

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Contact:
Annette Larkin
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+1 703.772.6427

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