The problem with condoms

HIV-Aids is less a medical problem than a social problem. The fact that half of HIV infections are of people between 15 and 24, with adolescent females being the majority, is a reflection of the patriarchal society we live in.

HIV-Aids is less a medical problem than a social problem. The fact that half of HIV infections are of people between 15 and 24, with adolescent females being the majority, is a reflection of the patriarchal society we live in.

It's an observation missed by current HIV-Aids prevention programmes that ignore the social implications of the scourge.

Condoms are therefore not the best tool for addressing this social gender imbalance.

Most young people know about the ABC of HIV-Aids prevention. Why are they not practicing it?

A review by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in 2006 of the factors that shape young people's sexual behaviour said: "Condoms can be stigmatising and associated with lack of trust. Young people worry that asking for their partner to use a condom implies that they think their partner is diseased.

"In South Africa and Uganda, wanting to use a condom can be interpreted as a sign of carrying the disease."

It is clear ignorance or recklessness are not the only reasons for lack of condom use by young people. It's the social implications associated with the use of condoms that are the main barrier.

HIV-Aids prevention campaigns should address the social causes and imbalances.

Dr Lucas Ntyintyane, Randburg

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