Anal use of the female condom: Does uncertainty justify provider inaction?

Document Type

Article (peer-reviewed)

Publication Date



Despite limited safety data and the absence of efficacy data, several studies have reported that the female condom is being used for anal sex by men who have sex with men. We describe providers' awareness of female condom use during anal sex among their clients and their experiences in counseling clients. We conducted semi-structured interviews with 78 health-care providers recruited from various health-care delivery systems in New York City: a family planning agency, a sexually transmitted infection agency, a hospital-based obstetrics and gynecology clinic, and two community-based AIDS service organizations. While two-thirds of providers reported that they were uncertain as to whether the female condom could or should be used for anal intercourse, nearly one-third believed that anything is better than nothing to prevent HIV/sexually transmitted infections during anal sex. Few providers had actually talked with clients about anal use of the female condom, and clients themselves had seldom mentioned nor asked for information about such use. Our findings highlight providers' uncertainty about anal use of the female condom. Lacking guidelines regarding the safety and efficacy of female condom use during anal sex, health-care providers are left to make their own well-intentioned recommendations (or not) to potential users. The dearth of information on female condom use during anal sex could encourage individuals to use the female condom for anal sex, which may increase HIV transmission risk or represent a missed opportunity for protecting non-condom users. There is a need for a series of harm-reduction, acceptability, and efficacy studies and, in the interim, for the development of a carefully qualified safety set of guidelines regarding anal use of the female condom for health-care providers.