Both male and female condom use is reported to have gradually decreased in Gweru District between January and June and the question that immediately props up is: could this be a transformation in sexual relations in the context of the deadly Covid19 pandemic or increased use of unprotected sex?
The dip in condom use also comes at a time when institutions of higher learning and night spots- the biggest condom users in the city- have been closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“For Gweru District, condom uptake has been very low this particular period. As I look at our statistics, I am seeing that in January condom uptake for males, that is the male condoms was at 19 600 in January and it has gone down gradually up to June where uptake was at 10 400 units. And for the female condom, in January, the uptake was at 11 040 but it also went down to the current 760 in June,” said National Aids (NAC) Coordinator Murari Hwingwiri.
However, Hwingwiri attributed the decreased condom uptake to the Covid19 induced closure of institutions of higher learning.
Gweru has the Midlands State University (MSU), Mkoba Teachers’ College and Gweru Polytechnic as the major tertiary institutions in the Midlands capital.
“The statistics show that condom uptake this year has been very low and there are a number of reasons why the scenario is like that. For starters, we usually distribute our condoms using condom dispensers that we gave to colleges and universities in Gweru. You know these institutions of higher learning are currently closed and that is where we find quite a number of youths who are sexually active and usually consume a lot of condoms,” he said.
“And again, there is an issue of night spots that are closed and also beer halls which are also closed because of the current Covid-19-induced national lockdown which makes it impossible for some people to access condoms from those joints”.
“Mr Hwingwiri urged people to get condoms from clinics adding that the Covid-19 pandemic should not disrupt the supply for condoms. But still we are saying those who want the condoms can look for them at clinics which we have been supplying. Anyone who wants to use condoms can go and get them from local clinics,” he said.
Hwingwiri further quipped that condom uptake is a proxy indicator that people are using protection because ‘when one collects the condoms, he or she must use them instead of putting them in the pocket’.
“We want to believe that those who collect them use them. We are encouraging sexually active people to continue using the condoms even under lockdown and we will continue to supply the clinics,” Hwingwiri said.
Additional Reporting: Zwnews