Pressure pushes users to shun female condoms


. . . Ha Thetsane marks World Condom Day


MASERU – Due to societal conventions that suggest that women should avoid carrying condoms, some young women find it difficult to use female condoms, putting them at risk of contracting HIV, sexually transmitted diseases, and unintended pregnancies. Rethabile Maliba a young female resident of Ha Thetsane in Maseru, says using female condoms entails a lot of unnecessary work, adding that inserting them is extremely uncomfortable.

“It feels uncomfortable using female condoms, and the process of inserting them in the private area entails a lot of work, even if it takes up to eight hours before sexual activity. Even though we were taught how to use them today, I still worry that the condom will break inside my private area and leave the ring inside.”

Another young resident of Ha Thetsane who also declined to be identified said: “I once tried to use it, but that insertion process is too tedious, and it felt uncomfortable inserting it in front of my partner.”

She contends that culturally, it is inappropriate for a woman to expose her sexual desires to her man; hence, carrying condoms, especially female ones, is even more unusual.

These comments were solicited during the commemoration of International Condom Day, which was held at the Lifefo Sports Ground in Ha Thetsane on Wednesday this week. International Condom Day is officially celebrated annually on February 13.

It serves as a reminder that sexual health is an important aspect of overall well-being. It promotes safe sex practices, breaks stigma, and empowers individuals to make responsible decisions. African countries, particularly Eswatini (25.9%), Lesotho (19.3%), and South Africa (17.8%), exhibit the highest HIV rates, attributed to factors like poverty, gender inequality, and limited access to treatment.

The celebration held in Ha Thetsane last week was organised by the Boipusong HIV/AIDS Youth Association (BOHAYA). The association, which is a non-profit body, is based in Ha Thetsane and caters for young Basotho living with HIV/AIDS and those who are affected by the condition. In an interview with Public Eye, BOHAYA’s programmes officer, Keketso Chigando, said female condoms are not readily available, adding that comparatively, they are not as common or as popular as the male condoms.

“There is a huge gap in terms of supply and marketing of female condoms and the attitude of females towards female condoms. Apart from the fact that they are not easily accessible where they are distributed, women complain that female condoms are uncomfortable.”

The founder and executive director of BOHAYA, Moletsane Maleoa, also told Public Eye that the challenge with the female condom is that it is limited. “Another challenge is that these condoms are expensive, their distribution is very limited, and even the education on their use is not diverse enough to reach many communities,” he said.

Maleoa said even the cultural norms can be broken if enough education about female condoms is passed on to the communities because some women do not use them because of a lack of knowledge.

“The female condoms have to be easily accessible for women, and the education about those condoms should be diverse because we cannot extend the teaching about one condom while the other condom is left behind in terms of education and distribution.”

Maleoa said they held the celebration in Ha Thetsane as they were targeting out-of-school youth who reside in Maseru Rural. “Our organisation targets adolescents and youth to fight new HIV infections; we wanted to give these young people an opportunity to learn about all available contraceptives and the importance of the use of condoms,” Maleoa said.

Adolescent girls and young women living with disabilities, according to Mpeo Kherehloa, are no exception to issues related to HIV/AIDS and should be included in the demonstrations of opening a condom.

“If one can observe, most victims of new infections of HIV/AIDS are us, women with disabilities. Because we experience rape at home, we are living under gender-based violence (GBV), especially those living in the highlands. So it is important because people like me, who are blind, learn things by touching, so most of the time, when condom opening and use demonstrations are made, we are left behind,” Kharehloa said.

She further said that there is need for health facilities to include them by letting them touch things and see how they operate so that they can learn and receive equal access to knowledge.

Speaking at the same event, the National AIDS Commission (NAC) co-ordinator, Tankiso Mokhohlane, said the celebration was important because it is through the use of condoms that protection can be guaranteed in different categories, which includes protection against HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and protection against unplanned pregnancy.

“We thank the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) for supporting today’s commemoration and BOHAYA for organising the event. I hope that the youth have learned something today because the commission is worried about the statistics, which show that the youth are the highest in terms of new infections of HIV/AIDS,” he said.

Mokhohlane said Lesotho is celebrating 200 years of existence as a nation, adding that Basotho have fought and won many battles in the past years. “One of the biggest battles right now is to see to it that HIV/AIDS is eliminated, just as Lesotho and other global countries have targeted that by 2030, they should be AIDS-free.”

UNFPA Representative Innocent Modisaotsile said celebrating International Condom Day, a day before Valentine’s Day, affords the world an opportunity to celebrate love, pleasure, and protection. “Condoms play a critical role in the sexual and reproductive health landscape of Basotho. This is particularly so because HIV prevalence is still very high in Lesotho, at 22.7%. We are very concerned about new HIV incidences of 5,000 per year and early and unintended pregnancies at 19%. Studies show that preventable maternal deaths are attributed to early, unintended pregnancies that result in unsafe abortions and complicated deliveries,” he said.

Modisaotsile said that as different stakeholders, they should celebrate International Condom Day by reflecting on ways to make condoms more human and youth-centred. “Let us engage youth and other users on critical issues around access and use, such as non-traditional collection points, colour, size, packaging, demand creation language, and take-away quantities,” he said.

During the official commemoration of International Condom Day on February 13, NAC Chief Executive Officer Lebohang Mothae said NAC acknowledges that the day resonates with the 2025 UNAIDS global targets and commitments, especially that 90% of people living with HIV or those at risk are linked to people-centred HIV services, thus condoms being one of those commodities.

“Let us reaffirm our commitment to promoting condom use as a key component of comprehensive HIV prevention strategies. Let us work together to educate communities, empower individuals, and break down the barriers that prevent people from accessing condoms and other essential sexual health services.”

Mothae further said that according to the Lesotho HIV&AIDS Strategic Plan 2023-2028, a few things were reported on UNAIDS estimates that even though the country has targeted 90% of condom use by non-regular sexual partners, women between the ages of 15 and 49 years, 61% of them are using condoms, while their male counterparts are at 69%, adolescent girls, young women only reached 47% while young men are at 68%, condom use of sex workers, the last they had paid sex is 86% while their male clients is 83%, and men who have sex with other men is at 98%.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *