Female condom uptake worrisome as women continue to be ravaged by STI’S
Mutare-More than two decades have elapsed since the female condom became widely available, and it remains the only female-initiated means of preventing both pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV .
At the same time, there have been disappointments uptake in Zimbabwe,it has been lower than was initially anticipated, demonstrating that successful introduction will not be as straightforward as was hoped at first.
The question is still the same year after year, day after day and clinic visit after another to be treated STI’s.
Why are women NOT using this alternative to the male condom hailed method that would enable women to have greater control over their own protection from diseases?
The answer is easy and straight forward women are reluctant to use the female condom and there has been resistance from the male side.
After the first female condom was introduced women cried for it to be made a better condom and so it was done.
Then came the introduction of the female condom 2, uptake is still low.
In a snap survey nine out of ten men that were interviewed it clearly shows that there is still a wider need for men to know about the female condom and also accept it as an alternative condom to the male condom.
“Indeed, there are still gaps in knowledge about how acceptable the female condom is for long-term use and whether promoting it can help reduce STI rates and HIV.
I am not comfortable with my woman to use that condom, we have always known of the male condom and l should be the one to wear a condom,” said one John Chiororo of Sakubva .
With the support of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), public and private funders, and the manufacturer, more than 90 developing countries have introduced the method through public distribution, social marketing campaigns or commercial outlets but still the struggle is on.
Zimbabwe National Family Planning Council (ZNFPC), Provincial Manager Mr Dyson Masvingise during a Sensitization meeting for Marvelon28 he said the female condom is the safest condom to use but the same women who called for it are not using it.
“Statistics say otherwise because pointers of new infections are rising up especially in family setups,” he said adding that Yet, two decades after its much-celebrated introduction, the female condom still isn’t living up to its potential.
Last year speaking at a Adolscence Sexual Reproductie Health Foruum Masvingise said there has been high consumption of condoms and high STI’s incidences in the province .
“1 577900 male condoms were distributed in the third quarter of 2015 yet STI’s incidences are high.
I am puzzeled by this because we start wondering what these condoms are being used for .Could it be that people are not using condoms its so worrisome ,” said Masvingise.
As for Manicaland it is still witnessing as high as 5000 STI’s per quarter and this trend is worrisome especially considering the resources and effort the province is putting in raising HIV and AIDS awareness.
According to Manicaland annual Provincial Narrative report 2014,females treated of STI’s were 14 267 as compared to 7667 males .
The most affected age group is 25-49 years.
Masvingise added that women still need motivation and also for their male counterparts to accept it .
“Men are the ones who need to be
Monitoring and Evaluation Officer of National Aids Council (NAC) Albert Mpofu said there is need to prioritise female focused interventions.
“Female HIV prevalence is generally higher than that of male over the years therefore investments should prioritise female focused interventions for the female condom to be a success story.
According to Ministry of Health statistics only 24 percent of contacts were traced and the need to promote and intensify STI contact tracing is needed,” said Mpofu.
In 2015, NAC statistics states that 5 573 786 female condoms were distributed and 109 402 154 male condoms were distributed.
Speaking at a National Aids Council (NAC) Media workshop in Macheke, NAC operations Director Raymond Yekeye said the statistics are a proxy estimate of usage of condoms by distribution.
“When we say five million were distributed we do not mean that they were used .We do not know if all these people are using these condoms for the correct use or for other purposes. Use is subjective, but by distribution we assume they are being used.
We have questions .Are they really being used? Why are new infections recorded? Consistent use of condoms is questionable too? , said Yekeye.
Despite both successes and disappointments, promotion of the female condom remains important, especially in the face of heterosexually acquired HIV infection rates that are soaring globally.
It is un-fortunate that there is a discourse that marginalizes the female condom as a viable prevention option, out of concerns about its cost and the need for women to obtain their partner’s cooperation in order to use it.
Such a conclusion is premature, as the picture is far more complex rather women should argue for a renewed commitment to behavioural intervention research and the implementation and evaluation of large-scale female condom programs to normalize it as a potential method for all sexually active women and men, not just those who engage in high-risk behaviours or are living with HIV or AIDS.
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