Objectives: The female condom (FC) is an effective strategy against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in susceptible women and men who have sex with men. FCs are the only female-initiated dual protection method that protects against both STIs and unintended pregnancy. As healthcare professionals (HCPs) are a key element in the promotion of contraceptive use, it is important to examine attitudes toward FCs among this group.
Study participants: 15 male and female HCPs aged between 22-57 years recruited from sexual and reproductive health settings located in Brighton, London, and Glasgow. Sampling method: purposive sampling with targeted advertisements (newsletters and bulletins).
Study design: face-to-face and telephone interviews with sexual health HCPs. Main outcome measure: potential barriers and facilitators to FCs in the UK. Data were analysed thematically to identify common views and perspectives.
Results: FCs were thought to be unacceptable to most women due to stigma, design, negative visual appeal, insertion difficulties and lack of familiarity. The perceived unavailability and higher cost of FCs, in comparison to male condoms, are major barriers to their use.
Conclusions: HCPs are reluctant to promote FCs, often due to the perceived social stigma surrounding FCs. Further education and promotion are needed to increase acceptability and correct usage. Future research needs to explore strategies to increase the acceptability of FCs among women, men who have sex with men and HCPs.