The Universal Access to Female Condoms (UAFC) Joint Programme started in 2009 with the aim to make female condoms accessible, affordable and available for all. Four organizations (Oxfam Novib, Rutgers, i+solutions and the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs) have combined knowledge and expertise in working with civil society organizations, supply chain management and procurement, advocacy on sexual and reproductive health and rights and international politics.
The main reason to set up the UAFC Joint Programme was to break the long-time inertia of the accessibility of female condoms at an affordable price and in a sustainable manner. Existing barriers in providing women and men access to female condoms were: the high procurement price, the lack of competition on the female condom market (and subsequently the lack of variety of female condoms) as well as the lack of programming in many countries. Prior to 2009, most female condom programmes were characterized by frequent stock outs and/ or expiring stocks due to erratic distribution and programming. Female condoms were viewed with skepticism by most international institutions and donor agencies: they perceived female condoms as a niche product (to be distributed to sex workers only; they expected it not to be accepted as a family planning or protection method for all) and very often did not integrate them in their policies and budgets.
It has been twenty years since the first female condom came on the market and studies have repeatedly shown high levels of acceptability of female condoms. Yet still most women cannot use them because they are not available to them. High prices (up to 30 times the price of the male condom) and very limited or irregular access have inhibited the female condom from becoming an accepted reproductive health commodity and HIV prevention method. This is a missed opportunity and cannot be justified, since the female condom is the only female-initiated method that offers dual protection.