By ZURAH NAKABUGO
Uganda needs about 18 million condoms for people to use per month but they receive less condoms since government doesn’t know exact number of people who need these condoms, Vastha Kibirige, the Ministry of Health’s condom programme coordinator said.
“There is a big number of sexual workers who use these condoms and other people who pose as house wives yet they are also sex workers. Others are men who have sex with fellow men and also youths. So government is not aware of exact number of these sexual workers,” she said.
Kibirige said, about 95 per cent of people in the country should be using condoms but its only 33 percent of them that use these condoms due to lack of access to them.
“We are trying as much as possible to make sure condoms are available and accessible. They are now accessible in self dispensers at working places, health facilities, entertainment places and other public places where they can easily access them,” she said.
Kibirige added, “Comprehensive condom programing for HIV prevention ensures that sexually active person, who are at risk of getting HIV and unintended pregnancies are motivated to use condoms, have access to quality condoms and can use them correctly and consistently.”
She said, a condom is the only Personal Protection Device (PPD) that offers triple protection which include HIV, Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and unintended pregnancies.
“If you are using Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) you don’t prevent STIs and unintended pregnancies, you only prevent HIV. But a condom is the best since it prevents all the three infections such as HIV, STIs and unintended Pregnancies,” Kibirige said.
She said, condom use has gone down, mainly due to movement restrictions that occurred during Covid-19 lock downs when people had no access to them while others didn’t know how to use a condom.
“Lack of condom use has increased the risk of people getting HIV since they have been having sex without using condoms especially during lockdowns. It was difficult to distribute condoms to the last users during lockdowns,” she said.
The new HIV infection is highest among women aged 25 – 34 years with prevalence rate being highest among women aged between 35 to 39 years. And among men, the incidence peaks among those at age of 35 -49, and with highest number of infection in those that are 45 – 49 years.
Currently about 1.4 m Ugandans live with HIV and out of them, 1.2m who are on treatment and take their drugs well can’t spread HIV, to their loved ones since their HIV virus has been suppressed in the blood and other fluids in the body.
Kibirige says, however many people don’t want to use condoms due to their religious believes, others don’t know how to use them especially female condoms.
“The current policy now, if we are distributing condoms, we do it with relevant information and also sensitize public on how to use condoms. We are trying to distribute condoms in every public places, to make sure, if someone wants sex, he can get the condom in less than 15 minutes,” Kibirige says.
Kibirige warned girls who are using the morning after pill every day, claiming that it’s supposed to be used for emergencies only since when it’s overused it, becomes toxic to the body due to its high concentration.
The UN system in Uganda supports the Uganda government policy on prevention of HIV/AIDS including the use of the triple strategy of Abstinence; Faithfulness; and correct and consistent Condom usage , commonly known as ABC strategy. This strategy aims at lowering HIV infections in the country, from as high as 30 percent in the early, to about 6 percent currently.