Providing free condoms at public institutions and in the workplace is just one of the government’s initiatives to reduce the spread of SexuallyTransmitted Infections and HIV/Aids. But people are not taking advantage of this, and seem to prefer to buy condoms from shops, vendors and even on the black market.
This situation has the potential of exposing a lot more people to STI’s as some end up having unprotected sex because they can’t afford condoms.
According to the National AIDS Council, the high numbers of STI’s recorded in Harare last year are the result of unprotected sex. This has impacting negatively on the country that previously managed to reduce HIV prevalence from about 27% to 15%.
In an investigation to establish the reason why free condoms provided by government were not being used by many, a cross section of Harare adult males was interviewed. They reported that they did not trust the safety of free contraceptives.
“I experience an allergic reaction whenever I use MaDeembare, the free blue condoms supplied by government (blue as in Dynamos football club uniform). I developed a rash and decided to stop using them. I won’t use a product that harms my health,” David Mudimu told the reporter at a recent health symposium in Harare. The symposium was held to discuss ways of preventing sexually transmitted infections.
Godfrey Munashe of Epworth said he doubted the safety of the free condoms and believes they may be ‘rejects’.
“I have never trusted these condoms because I am suspicious of anything that is given for free. I would rather go to a shop and buy a pack of condoms for $1,” he said.
Toringepi Chavava from Mbara National said that he would rather buy condoms from street vendors than use the free government condoms because he does not want to risk his life.
“I have, on two occasions, experienced the free condoms bursting and I will therefore never trust their strength again. For my own safety, I buy from vendors who sell real protector plus condoms,” Chavava told the reporter.
Interviews with numerous vendors showed that it has become the norm for vendors to sell condoms outside night clubs and beer halls, where they target patrons who have been drinking.
Vendors claim that the majority of patrons leaving the pub prefer to buy condoms from them instead of taking the free ones that are available in toilets and elsewhere.
Vendor Shadreck Mushaninga sells cigarettes, eggs and condoms outside the Club Elizabeth night club in the city centre. He claims to sell more condoms than eggs and cigarettes. Inside the club a pack of four condoms costs $3 while he sells his for only $1.
“I sell a lot over weekends when more people visit the club. I think that patrons buy my condoms as they are cheaper than the club’s. I can confirm that I make more from selling condoms than eggs late at night over weekends,” he said.
At Tipperary Night Club in the Avenues area, vendors claim that selling condoms is big business.
“I make a fortune selling condoms. I sell a pack of four for $1.50. I think people are embarrassed to buy condoms in shops and prefer to buy from vendors at night,” a female vendor explained. She is aware that free blue condoms are available in all night club toilets and is not sure why people prefer to buy from her, but thinks that they might believe that free condoms to be of poor quality.
Dr Owen Mugurungi, director of the TB and HIV unit in the Ministry of Health and Child Care, admitted that there was a low public response to free condoms. He added that government noted, with concern, that not only were free condoms being shunned by the public, but people were, in fact acquiring condoms and drugs on the black market.
“The danger of buying products and drugs on the black market is that you do not know for how long they have been been exposed to heat, which compromises their quality, and the expiry dates. We recommend that people use the drugs and condoms that government provides,” he said in a recent interview.
Mugurungi added that he was aware that people had less confidence in free condoms and drugs provided by government as he had received reports of people living with HIV preferring to buy ARVs on the black market.Post published in: Health