Taking another step forward in female reproductive health, India’s first indigenously developed natural latex-based female condom is here. Manufactured by HLL Lifecare Ltd(HLL) under the brand name ‘Velvet’, the product was unveiled by the Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare J P Nadda, at the two-day National Family Planning Summit. [Feature Image Courtesy: medicalnewstoday.com]
In his speech following the unveiling, the Minister stressed on promotion of safe sex and how this condom can provide complete protection to a woman. Taking the discussion further he elaborated that a woman-initiated method of contraception that serves as a dual protection is necessary which can be instrumental in prevention of pregnancy and of HIV/AIDS.
Dr. Shikha Suman, founder of Medimojo, a digital health service provider company, though has a word of caution about the success of ‘Velvet.’ “One of the best kept secrets in reproductive health is allowing females freedom to safeguard against unwanted pregnancy and SITs. However conservative views about sex, high cost and poor awareness may hinder the use of the female condom in India despite its introduction two decades ago. ”
The fact remains that the introduction of an affordable contraception product which is woman-centric gives her more options of birth control. It’s a precaution to prevent both pregnancies and infections and give women more control over protection during sex. It’s success though will depend on how effectively it is marketed and distributed across the country.
HLL is a Government of India enterprise of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, which has designed and developed ‘Velvet’ totally in-house in it’s R&D Centre at Thiruvananthapuram (Kerala). The company had launched the first generation female condoms made of polyurethane in India in 2006 under the brand name Confidom. The second generation female condoms made with nitrile rubber were distributed from 2008. Furthering their research and expertise in natural rubber latex, ‘Velvet’ has finally been developed and it has already been qualified as the most affordable female condom in the world. The product is similar to the male condom in both efficacy and reliability and has a shelf life of five years.
In March this year, the WHO and the UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund) gave ‘Velvet’ a pre-qualification, meaning a go ahead to the product in terms of quality. With the result HLL has been declared as one of the four pre-qualified suppliers of female condoms across the globe. The company has already filed an Indian patent for the product in Brazil, South Africa and Aripo (African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation) countries.