Sex workers appear to have snapped up the female condom since it was first introduced in Koh Kong and Sihanoukville provinces last month, officials from the humanitarian organization Population Services International said Sunday.
Supriya Pillai, product development adviser for PSI, said female condom sales in Sihanoukville have already exceeded the organization’s expectations. Although she could not give official sales figures, she said the popularity of the contraceptive was a sign of success for the organization’s HIV/
AIDS prevention campaign.
Since October, PSI and two partner NGOs have been training sex workers, pharmacists, brothel-owners and officials on the use of the female condom, Pillai said.
Last month, PSI imported about 5,000 female condoms, which are sold in pharmacies, brothels and other venues around brothels for 100 riel (about $0.03). “This is our first project to introduce female condoms in Cambodia,” said PSI Marketing Manager Om Chhen. “Women have to be able to protect themselves from HIV/AIDS when they have sex with men who do not want to wear condoms.”
Pillai added: “We also hope that female condoms will be made more acceptable by this training.”
But, she said, the higher price of the female condoms is a barrier. “The female condoms are slightly more expensive than male condoms,” said Pillai. “But the price remains much lower than in other countries, and we previously made sure it would be affordable for the sex workers.”
PSI targeted provinces where the concentration of “high-risk population” is greater and where partner NGOs and government strongly collaborate, she said.
PSI plans to enlarge its program to a national level in six months, Om Chhen said.
“We plan to distribute female condoms to all Cambodian provinces,” Om Chhen said. “But we need to do it step by step.”