LACK OF FEMALE CONDOMS PUTS WOMEN AT RISK

NON-GOVERNMENTAL organisations have raised concern over the lack of female condoms, claiming that it undermines efforts to curb new infections.

NON-GOVERNMENTAL organisations have raised concern over the lack of female condoms, claiming that it undermines efforts to curb new infections.

"In South Africa more than 1000 people are newly infected (with HIV) every day. The majority of those are women," said Nomfundo Eland, chairperson of the South African National Aids Council's women's sector.

"The epidemic in this country has the face of a woman. Advocacy towards prevention has been really weak."

Addressing the recent "HIV Prevention for Women and Girls Summit" in Johannesburg, Eland referred to the latest research by the Human Sciences Research Council which shows that "females from the ages of 25 to 29 have the highest (HIV) prevalence in South Africa at about 32,7percent.

"The national average is 10,9percent," she said.

"There is a need to protect them (women) from the factors that put them at risk, issues such as the economic status of women, issues like gender-based violence, inaccessibility of prevention measures that are directed at women like female condoms," she said.

"South Africa has great policies and yet failure to implement these undermines efforts in totality.

"Inequalities that exist in our strategies, such as the distribution of condoms - for instance, about 3,5million condoms for women are distributed and 450million male condoms are distributed. That means four women will be sharing one condom,"

In defence of the Health Department, its HIV and STI prevention unit head Eva Marumo said: "The department is buying female condoms from (its) own fiscal. There's no donor supporting that currently".

However, advocates of female condoms disagree.

Advocacy officer of the Thohoyandou Victim Empowerment Programme Tian Johnson raised concern over the awarding of the tender for the manufacture of female condoms.

"The current situation pertaining to the inadequate access to the female condom in South Africa today is a violation of the rights of women and men.

"The tender for female condom supply has been awarded to the Female Health Company. That means there are no options for competition, there are no options for bringing prices down.

"That enables us to use the excuse that we have been using for far too long, that female condoms are expensive. It's an excuse with no basis and with no merit," he said. - Health-e

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