South Africa Country Program

V Condom: A new dual protection option in South Africa

Thirty years into the HIV/AIDS epidemic, women still have limited options for protection, especially when their partner refuses to use a male condom. The V Condom is a new, second-generation female condom designed to be easy to use and provide good sensation for both partners. It offers a new option for women and men interested in dual protection – family planning and protection against HIV.

About V Condom

V CondomPATH developed the V Condom with feedback from women, men, and providers in four countries, including South Africa. It has been evaluated in clinical studies in multiple countries with good results for performance, safety, and acceptability.

PATH licensed the V Condom to Dahua Medical Apparatus Company (Dahua) of Shanghai, China, for manufacturing and distribution. The woman’s Condom received the SABS certification mark for South African approval in May 2013. rrtMedcon—a male condom manufacturer from Durban, South Africa—is the distributor of the V Condom throughout Southern Africa.

Market entry strategy

PATH is utilizing a total market approach strategy for the V Condom in South Africa and will explore market opportunities in both the private- and public-sector channels over time. Target markets will be segmented based on ability to pay and product positioning.

As a first step, PATH is working with research partners in South Africa to assess uptake and acceptability among various target markets and distribution channels outside the public sector over the next year. These markets include:

  • Workers who participate in corporate wellness programs of large employers.
  • Student health clinics at universities and colleges.
  • Private not-for-profit clinics that offer family planning services.
  • Non-governmental organisations that reach populations at high risk of HIV.
  • Government family planning clinics.

PATH is evaluating market opportunities outside the public sector as the first target market to determine if the product can become commercially sustainable in South Africa. These market tests will help assess if there are channels and purchasers willing to pay for a refined female condom product designed for acceptability and good sensation.

Lessons learnt

Although female condoms have been distributed free to users through public-sector family planning programs in South Africa for more than 15 years, low awareness and poor supply exists for a variety of reasons. Focus group discussions and market research completed in South Africa offered the following insights to inform market entry strategies:

  • Raise awareness and educate about female condoms given low familiarity with the product category.
  • Market as relevant for both men and women. Address male partner resistance.
  • Capitalize on the unique distinction that male condoms do not offer (pleasure for both partners).
  • Market toward “specific usage occasions,” especially when male condoms are not used.
  • Target V Condom to middle to high-end income consumers to expand the market by attracting consumers willing to pay for pleasure and protection.

Next steps

The market tests in late 2014 assessed uptake and acceptability among diverse audiences and distribution channels to explore market opportunities beyond public-sector distribution. Perspectives on product packaging, positioning, and willingness to pay was also assessed. rrtMedcon is using the results to refine future introduction. Once World Health Organization pre-qualification is achieved, the V Condom will be eligible to compete for the public-sector tender, expanding options for pleasure and protection to broader market segments.