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Health Advocates Tout New Model Of Female Condom

Mary Ann Leeper, former president of Female Health Co. and now its strategic adviser, said the FC2 also is less noisy during use. Complaints about squeaky noises were among the factors that slowed acceptance of the original version.

The cost of the FC2 is one-third less than its predecessor, and may go lower, enabling health organizations to distribute many millions more than at present. For now, the price is about 60 cents compared to less than 4 cents for mass-distributed male condoms ¿ a difference that's an issue in the developing world.

The FC2 had been accepted previously by some international organizations, and the Female Health Co. distributed 14 million of them abroad last year along with 21 million of the older version. Advocates of the female condom praised the FDA announcement because it opens the door for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), one of the largest global providers of condoms, to distribute the FC2 overseas.

"This is a tremendous victory," said Susie Hoffman, an assistant professor of clinical epidemiology at Columbia University who contends the female condom has suffered from misconceptions.

"In the United States, there has been strong bias against it," Hoffman said. "Some people involved in AIDS and family planning would say, 'Why do we need these? ... It's so weird that women are not going to pick it up.'"

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