Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Female Condoms Promoted Through Beauty Salon Initiative in Malawi

[via Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report]

The United Nations Population Fund and Population Services International have introduced a program to distribute female condoms in Malawian beauty salons in an effort to encourage their use and curb the spread of HIV, VOA News reports. Pamela Msukwa, family planning and HIV technical coordinator for PSI/Malawi, said hair salons were chosen for the program because they "provide a very viable and highly targeted market" due to their popularity with women in Malawi. She added, "That's where they get to talk about issues, and there is always somebody they can discuss issues with." A team of women associated with the organization promote and distribute the condoms, and salon staff members are trained on how to talk about the products with their customers.

Although condom use and other methods of preventing pregnancy and the spread of sexually transmitted infections have been considered the "domain of males," the beauty salon initiative is attempting to change the situation, VOA News reports. A pilot project eight years ago to encourage female condom use failed in part because of a lack of information about the condoms and stigma associated with their use, according to VOA News. Msukwa said the "main goal" of the program is to reduce the rate of new HIV cases and unplanned pregnancies and "increase the adoption of safer-sex behavior through increased and consistent use of the female condom." She added that the successes of the program so far have lead PSI/Malawi to begin to consider ways of targeting men through barber shops. According to VOA News, fifteen PSI country programs distribute female condoms worldwide and more than seven million have been sold to date.

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