Alvine Kapitako WINDHOEK - There is an annual gap of more than 3 billion male condoms in Sub-Saharan Africa, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) country office said on Friday. During an information sharing session with the media on the Condomise campaign that will be launched this week in the Oshana Region, the Programme Specialist for HIV Prevention and Family Planning at UNFPA Namibia, Grace Hidinua, said: “It is true that there is a condom gap” in Southern Africa to cater for the region. Hidinua said Namibia, Botswana and South Africa are some of the countries that produce condoms. However, Hidinua highlighted that UNFPA procures its condoms from the Asian market. This is because condom manufacturers in the region do not meet the World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNFPA condom pre-qualification standards, which includes the capacity to produce huge quantities of condoms, Hidinua explained. According to the WHO website, none of the major manufacturers of male and female latex condoms use mercaptobenzothiazole (MBT or ZMBT), a chemical material which has been identified as a potential carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). The “2010 WHO and UNFPA Male Latex Condom Specification, Prequalification and Guidelines for Procurement” state the manufacturing requirements for male condoms. It states that good quality natural rubber latex should be the main material. The 2012 WHO and UNFPA Female Condom Specification, Prequalification, and Guidelines for Procurement state similar requirements for female condoms. Female condoms are made of either polyurethane, natural rubber or synthetic rubber, all of which do not use MBT. Speaking on the Condomise campaign that will be launched this week at Ongwediva, Thamary Silindza, the Programme Officer for Maternal Health and Family Planning in Swaziland explained that the campaign is meant to remove stigma from condoms so that people are free to take and use condoms. “A lot of people don’t want to take condoms or to be seen taking condoms,” said Silindza. The Condomise campaign is a joint programme of UNFPA and the Condom project, in partnership with UNAIDS and the Condom Inter-Agency Task Team. The campaign will be implemented by UNFPA Namibia in partnership with government and other partners. The campaign is also aimed to encourage access to quality condoms, when people need them and in places where they feel the most comfortable gaining that access, explained Silindza. She said that community workers, youth leaders and programmers have been trained to participate in the campaign, and what the campaign does is to engage with influential people within communities on how best to prevent the spread of HIV. “Culturally sensitive methods of condom distribution should also be devised in collaboration with traditional authorities and where possible religious institutions, and the media and young people,” said Silindza. Furthermore, she remarked that condom use rates are going down in Southern Africa. As a result, there has been an increase in sexually transmitted illnesses (STIs), added Silindza. The aim is really to encourage people, especially the young people to start using condoms because it has dual prevention advantages. This means that condoms when used correctly can reduce the chances of unplanned pregnancies and STIs including HIV. “The condom is the best method for young people,” added Silindza. Meanwhile, Hidinua said that young people are sexually active as a result there is need to encourage them to practise safer sex. The education sector policy says that condoms should be allowed in schools, added Hidinua. The custodians of schools, namely principals, teachers and parents may not be comfortable with the idea, added Hidinua. “These issues require sensitisation. We have to make sure that young people make informed choices,” added Hidinua.
New Era Reporter
2018-08-06 10:01:26 11 months ago