Female condom reuse in Lusaka, Zambia: evidence from 12 cases

J Urban Health. 2001 Dec;78(4):638-46. doi: 10.1093/jurban/78.4.638.


Female condom reuse could address one of the principal barriers to use, namely, cost; however, the safety of reuse has not been established. Recent reports have provided information related to reuse safety under carefully specified research study conditions. Still, little is known about reuse outside a research study context, and there are outstanding questions related to feasibility of reuse among general populations. This study reports on naturally occurring reuse from a small, purposive sample of self-identified women who, prior to the study, had reused the female condom of their own volition without reuse instruction. Three types of reuse were identified. Most women attempted to clean devices between removal and reinsertion. A number of agents, including water (only), bath soap, laundry detergent, Dettol, and beer were used for cleaning. A number of agents were used for relubrication, including Reality((R)) lubricant, various kinds of cooking oil, and Vaseline((TM)). Perception of the strength and integrity of female condoms making them suitable for reuse were influenced by both provider advice and product packaging. Most participants reported no problems with reuse. Some women, faced with barriers to single use of a female condom or use of an acceptable alternative, will resort to reuse and rely on their own "common sense" notions to implement reuse. Providers and purveyors have opportunities to shape responses to reuse for the better, and the research community is obligated to provide a solid scientific base regarding reuse safety.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Condoms, Female / microbiology
  • Condoms, Female / standards*
  • Condoms, Female / statistics & numerical data
  • Equipment Reuse*
  • Equipment Safety*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hygiene
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Lubrication
  • Motivation
  • Product Labeling
  • Safe Sex
  • Sexual Partners
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / prevention & control
  • Women's Health
  • Zambia