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Why women shun their condoms

JACK ZIMBA, Lusaka
WOMEN in rural areas are shunning the female condom because they believe it may get inside their private parts during intercourse.
“We have some interesting myths out there in the communities. Some say that looking at the size of the condom, once inserted, the condom will go inside and get stuck,” said Society for Family Health (SFH) communications and marketing manager Mumbi Mutale.

He said it has not been easy for SFH to sell the product to rural women.
“There are a lot of challenges there, but our focus has been mostly to talk about advantages because once the people know the benefits and advantages of using the condom, we begin to see them appreciating and making steps to buy the condom,” Mr Mumbi said.
But he said social norms where men are expected to initiate and negotiate for sex have also contributed to the female condom not being popular among women. He said many women are still too embarrassed to walk up the counter and buy a condom.
And the organisation says more men have shown interest in the HIV self-testing than women.
Mutinta Nalubamba, who is director of the HIV-Self-testing Africa in Zambia, sees this as a plus for men, who previously showed less enthusiasm to test for HIV.
“I think this is a great opportunity to have a lot of men actually test,” said Dr Nalubamba.
She also allayed fears that self-testing has a negative social impact.
Some people have expressed concern that people who self-test positive for HIV may end up committing suicide, as they would be testing without any pre-counselling.
“But what we have actually seen is that people can self-test without necessarily going through the process of actually killing themselves. We have not recorded any suicides as part of our work,” she said.
HIV self-testing, using oral fluids, is a novel initiative introduced by UNITAID, the global organisation that helps to fight pandemics.
The project is being piloted in Malawi, Zimbabwe and Zambia, with the hope of increasing the number of people testing for HIV, in line with the UNAIDS 90:90:90 target by 2020, which entails that by 2020, 90 percent of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status.
By 2020, 90 percent of all people with diagnosed HIV infection will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy. By 2020, 90 percent of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression.

 


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