By Patricia Mashiri and Joyce Mukucha
The Ministry of Health and Child Care has advised the nation to increase the use of condoms to lower the risk of HIV infection.
In his speech at the Condom International Day Commemorations held in Caledonia, health minister Dr David Parirenyatwa, represented by Dr. Tapuwa Magure, the Chief Executive officer of the National Aids Council (NAC) said condoms were important in supporting the HIV prevention programme in the country.
“Condoms are an important component of our HIV prevention programme in Zimbabwe. They can be safely considered as the back bone of most HIV prevention initiatives that we have. Besides abstinence and faithfulness the use of condoms is one of the first ways of reducing sexually transmitted infections including HIV ever to be used.
“Condom use remains key even among the key populations. A total of 2 million male and 200 thousand female condoms are distributed in sex work sites across the country. Adolescent girls and young women are at high risk of HIV since they face barriers in family planning which at times results in unintended teenage pregnancies,” Parirenyatwa said.
The Minister said the ministry, with the support of its partners, introduced the Condomize Campaigns that aim to promote the use of condoms and improve access to a wide variety of condoms across different societies.
Getrude Ncube, the National HIV prevention coordinator said Zimbabwe has relatively high populations in the reproductive age group of 15-49 (48%) and is one of the countries hardest hit by HIV in the region with a total of 1,3 million people living with HIV.
“The HIV response in Zimbabwe has managed to avert 1,7 million AIDS Deaths since 1991. This achievement would not have been realised without the significant contribution of HIV prevention interventions,” Ncube said.
Abiggail Musemburi, the United Nations Population Fund ( UNFPA) country assistant representative said there were some population groups that still found it difficult to negotiate condom use. She listed other prevention options which include male circumcision and pre-exposure prophlaxis.
The AIDS Health Care Foundation introduced new condom brands namely Icon Gold and Love condoms which was described as a great move and appreciated by many.
A general survey done by the supporting organisations to health found out that condom use among married couples and those in long term relationships is low yet the risk of HIV and STIs is quite high.
The survey also shows that the age differences for those girls and women in relationships with older males make it even more difficult for the young women to negotiate condom use hence the spread of HIV and all other sexually related diseases.
Commercial sex workers were warned to practice their rights in the use of condoms because most of the times when sex is exchanged for money and other goods it is even more difficult to negotiate for safer sex
Caledonia, Epworth and Hopely are hotspots which are known for all sexual activities. Sad stories are heard from these places where young girls are forced into marriages or engage in sexual activities as a survival skill. The Ministry of Health and Child Care and all its partners are advising them to practice their rights as well as safe sex through the use of condoms.