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In most countries, female condoms are not widely available and uptake has been slow. More information is needed on how women and men successfully negotiate female condom use.
In-depth interviews were conducted at two sites in Cape Town, South Africa, with 14 women and 13 men who had used female condoms. A structured interview guide was used to elicit information on how women negotiate female condom use, and how male partners negotiate or respond to negotiations of female condom use. Thematic analysis was used to identify key patterns in the data.
Participants reported that female condoms are easier for women to negotiate than male condoms, largely because the method is understood to be under a woman’s control. The main barrier to use was lack of familiarity with the method; strong negative reactions from partners were not a major barrier. Personal comfort and tensions with partners usually improved after first use. Some male respondents preferred the method because it shifts responsibility for condom use from men to women.
Findings suggest that female condoms empower women to initiate barrier method use, and that programs designed to educate potential users about female condoms and familiarize them with the method may be useful. That some men preferred female condoms because they wanted women to take responsibility for condom use is cause for concern, and suggests that counseling efforts should be directed toward men as well as women, and should include a discussion of gender dynamics and responsibility that emphasizes condom use as a choice that couples make together.
At the time of this study, Julia Martin was a graduate student, Hubert Department of Global Health, Emory University, Atlanta, GA, USA. Roger Rochat is professor, and Karen L. Andes is assistant professor—both at the Hubert Department of Global Health, Emory University. Patsy de Lora is chief executive officer, Partners in Sexual Health, Parow, South Africa.