HIV Epidemic: Zim Distributes 110 million Condoms in 2016

In a development which has been lauded as positive behavioural change, Zimbabwe last year distributed at least 110 million condoms countrywide, up from the 80 million distributed in 2014, official statistics show. 

The statistics were revealed by the Ministry of Health and Childcare in a statement to commemorate the World Condom Day celebrations on Tuesday. The development leaves Zimbabwe on position 10 in terms of condom use in countries with generalised HIV epidemic.

Taking the first position is Armenia followed by Swaziland, Nigeria, Ukraine, Belize, Mauritius, Gabon, Lesotho and Haiti. “A total of 105 million male condoms were distributed countrywide in 2016 alone,” reads the statement.

“The female condoms continue to slowly gain popularity and in 2016, a total of 4,5 million were distributed.” A summarised figure shows that an average of nine million condoms are distributed in Zimbabwe every month.
More Condoms Distributed in 2016

Zimbabwe, whose population stands at 14 million people, uses more condoms than Mozambique whose population is 25 million people. As such, officials believe Zimbabwe’s high condom usage has been the chief reason for the decline of the HIV prevalence rate by almost half since the turn of the millennium.

Zimbabwe, at 14 percent, is nevertheless still ranked fifth highest in terms of HIV prevalence in sub-Saharan Africa. Therefore, about 1,4 million people are living with HIV, including 77 000 children, an indication that there is still need for more work to curb new infections.

However, it is not clear whether or not the distribution is reflective of the actual condom usage as experts concur that it is difficult to construe usage data from distribution. While rhetorical evidence suggest Zimbabwe is ranked first in terms of per capita use of condoms, only information collected for high risk age groups of people aged between 15 and 49 is available.

And for this age group, United Nations data shows that at 43 percent Zimbabwe is also ranked 10 in terms of practising safe sex. For a country plagued with a plethora of sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies, the increase in condom usage is an indispensable weapon in the fight against HIV and Aids.

According to the statement, there is 71 percent use of condoms amongst non-marital relationships while its use among married couples remain low at only 27 percent. In Zimbabwe, condoms have become easier to access as they are given for free in most health institutions and public places.

According to the current Demographic Health Survey, reproductive and sexual health knowledge is gradually improving in the country and could further help decrease the prevalence rate.
“Knowledge of HIV prevention has increased since the 2010-11 ZDHS, mostly among men,” reads the survey report.

“Knowledge of prevention methods among young people has a strong positive association with education and wealth. 84 percent of women and 88 percent of men know that HIV can be prevented by using condoms during sexual intercourse.

“Ninety-two percent of women and 94 percent of men say that limiting sexual intercourse to one uninfected partner can reduce the chances of getting HIV. Similarly, 79 percent of women and 85 percent of men cited both these methods of HIV prevention.”

The distribution of condoms in Zimbabwe has not always been free of drama. An attempt to distribute condoms in schools by stakeholders in the fight against HIV provoked emotional debate in both the House of Assembly and the public sphere.

This was after surveys claimed that children as young as 10 were indulging in sexual activities, without protection in most cases. Even though the demographic health survey also acknowledged the reality of sexual activities among minors, a suggestion to distribute condoms in schools was rejected out of hand.

Sex educator with a local non-governmental organisation, Wilfred Katende, said it is welcome that distribution numbers are going up but hastened to point out that emphasis should be put on usage.
“Issues to do with distribution and usage of condoms should be understood within the nexus of demand and supply,” he said.

“Simple economics tells us that whenever demand goes up, supply should also go higher and in this case we are saying that distribution is increasing because the demand for condoms has gone higher. It is a good thing but how many of the distributed condoms are lying idle, how many people are actually using them when they collect them?

“I’m not saying the increase is a bad thing but all I am saying is that we should not only stop at distribution figures, we should go beyond to actual usage because we still have new infections which could have otherwise been prevented by the use of condoms.”

Civic groups have also weighed in saying the use of either the male or the female condom has the added advantage of also being a family planning method. - Sunday Mail

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