Rise in female condom use ‘encouraging’

Coloured condoms. Image: Supplied.

“We are in a position where the numbers are very encouraging.”

New data has shown an increase in the number of women taking charge of their sexual health, the city of Cape Town said yesterday, with an uptick in the use of female condoms in the metropole. The city has also started distributing “scented” male condoms to encourage use.

Mayoral committee member for health Siyabulela Mamkeli said the city’s health directorate reported an increase in the number of female condoms distributed through its network of clinics and community outreach campaigns.

Last year, more than 1.9 million female condoms were distributed in the eight health sub-districts, compared with 1.72 million in 2014.

“The figures are encouraging, because this means more women are becoming aware of the availability of female condoms,” Mamkeli said. “This shows them being able to take control of their sexual wellbeing.” Last year, City Health distributed nearly 54 million male condoms and treated 42 713 sexually transmitted infections (STIs) – down from 43 190 in 2014.

“We continue to face a number of challenges around STI treatment. There has been a slight drop in the number of cases, but it would be too simplistic and naïve to attribute it solely to increased treatment and condom usage,” Mamkeli said.

“People have been known to travel to access STI treatment outside their areas because they fear being stigmatised. Others simply refuse to get help for the same reason. And, of course, many STIs don’t have significant symptoms, thus remaining undiagnosed for a long time.”

Other unusual problems have centred around the type of condom distributed through public channels. The introduction of grapescented condoms last year to further promote condom usage had been well received. Other scents, such as vanilla and banana, will also be made available.

“We are in a position where the numbers are very encouraging,” he said. “But we have to step up our education and awareness campaigns, continue with our condom distribution and other interventions to drive down the incidence of sexually transmitted infections.”

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