CONDOM usage in Zimbabwe has steadily increased over the years and is among the highest in Southern Africa when compared to the size of the population, Health and Child Care minister David Parirenyatwa has said.
Officially launching the Population Services International (PSI) Zimbabwe’s new range of Protector Plus coloured and flavoured condoms in Harare on Wednesday, Parirenyatwa said the high usage was largely due to a comprehensive and robust condom distribution mechanism through the retail sector as well as sustained financial support from USaid and UKAid.
He said the country’s HIV prevalence had declined from 20,3% in 1998 to 14% in 2014.
“This decline is a result of changes in sexual behaviour, particularly reduction in concurrent multiple partnerships and increased condom use in non-marital relationships,” he said.
Parirenyatwa said despite these achievements, a lot still had to be done to curb misconceptions associated with condom use as well as curbing social norms that made it harder for sexual partners, whether married or not to negotiate safe sex.
“While condom use has been increasing in non-marital relationships (71%), use among married couples remains low at only 27%.
“There are cultural and social norms that create barriers to communication on sex and negotiating safe sex, in particular within marriage and long-term relationships,” he said.
Parirenyatwa deplored cultural practices that prevented women from negotiating for condom use even when they were fully aware that their sexual partners were unfaithful and at risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV.
“We need to create an enabling environment that does not stigmatise condoms and make it easier for anyone to purchase them without embarrassment,” he said.
Parirentatwa appealed to all retailers to assist by making condoms readily accessible at all till points.
Apart from their usual sexual reproductive health and HIV and Aids programmes, PSI Zimbabwe has been distributing the Protector Plus condoms on behalf of the Health ministry since 1996. The condoms now come in three flavours — banana, vanilla and strawberry.
“I would like to especially congratulate them (PSI Zimbabwe) on the introduction of coloured and scented condoms. There is now no excuse for anyone not to use a condom when they need to.
I am also happy to note that these coloured and scented condoms undergo the same stringent quality control measures that are applied to all condoms distributed in this country. They are tested and approved by the Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe.”
Parirenyatwa said his ministry’s aim was to help Zimbabweans overcome HIV by leveraging all possible resources, including from the donor community, private sector as well as non-governmental organisations, such as PSI Zimbabwe.