Female condoms, once dreaded by many women, leaving just a handful that used them to protect against the dreaded HIV/Aids and other sexually transmitted diseases according to Population Service International, are now selling like hot cakes. But this time around not for its initial use! It is rather for some novel street trading activity, as Staff Writer AISIA RWEYEMAMU discovered
Following the growing demand of female condoms, there is suddenly a scarcity of the protective products at Kibaha Mailimoja and its suburbs in Coast Region, in some parts of Dar es Salaam City and in Kahama, Shinyanga Region.
The scarcity is not simply because many women at the areas are in need of the condoms due to the importance attached towards protecting their health but their economic or financial value as decoration materials.
Purposely female condoms, sold in lots of three a pack at average price of Sh1,000, were made for fighting HIV /AIDS among ladies, but the condoms are no longer used as intended while the spread of HIV AIDS continues.
In most medical shops over the area there is a scarcity of these female condoms which before, were overloaded in the market for lacking customers.
But now the issue is different, no more overloaded but there is scarcity, the women were ignoring to protect their health, instead they want to decorate their bodies without considering the effect of misusing the product for such decoration.
Female condoms are no more a health protector against HIV/AIDS to some of females but it had turned out to be decoration material.
Steven Rodgers, a pharmacy operator at Kibaha Mailimoja in Coast Region, says the female condom business has now become good business as the condom is more purchased than earlier where no one bought it.
The purchasing is not being conducted by women but mostly by small entrepreneurs in the city, making the hand rings for women’s decoration.
“The condom is being turned into decoration material for women hands rings,” one entrepreneur enthused.
A condom trader says “when we sell the condoms to them, we know they are not going to be used for the targeted purpose but we continue selling it because we are doing business. That is our job.”
It’s easy to know the one who bought the condoms for health purposes and those purchasing for business, as the latter buy in big numbers.
One entrepreneur in Mwenge told the Guardian that they used to buy female condoms and cut out the circle ring at the end of the condom.
“We take that ring which is good for decoration and we add some shining so as to make it more attractive. We sell three rings for 2000/- and at times 1000/- per ring, which is quite profitable.
He continued to explain that ladies were mostly attracted by the ring without knowing how it was made. It’s difficult to notice that the ring was made by using the condom ring, he said.
Justifying the business, he said solving personal difficulties brought up the trade, through there is a discreet feeling in his mind that he might be going against the law.
Diana Mashauri, a resident of Ubungo Msewe, is among women in Dar es Salaam who decorate her body by using the ring extracted from ladies condoms, unknowingly.
She wasn’t earlier aware that the rings were made from condoms. “I was attracted by the way it is shining, that’s why I decided to buy it. I am wearing it as another decoration, I was not worried to buy it because before buying, I saw many people especially ladies they are wearing it and they are looking good, that’s why am buying too.
The ring made from ladies’ condoms brings out red colour reflection when exposed to sunlight.
Gloria Mziray, Public Relations Officer for the Tanzania Commission for Aids (TACAIDS) said in an interview on reports that improper usage of condom had resulted in its scarcity that currently TACAIDS had not received any reports of improper usage of condoms or their scarcity.
She cautioned however about any kind of misuse of female condoms, noting that they are of higher price than male condoms.
“We still have a long way to go in protecting our health against HIV. We can not say Tanzania without HIV is possible while the condoms are used for decoration purposes,” she said, noting that no one can stay away from the problem by ignoring the effort made by the government to protect public health.
However, the poor usage of condoms indicates that most people are not well educated about the importance of using the condom, which case more education is needed to educate people, especially women, on the benefits of using the condoms.
Female condom gives women control and choice over their own sexual health, as they can protect themselves when their partner does not want to use a male condom. Female condoms may provide enhanced sensation for men as compared to male condoms.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) female condoms are safe to use with people who are allergic to rubber latex, as they may be inserted hours before sex.
WHO states that female condom has up to 75% or 82% effectiveness against microbes or bacteria, while reasons for possible failure are similar to using the male condom.
The female condom was made to protect against pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including HIV.
Currently female condoms are available at most drugstores and in clinics for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) clinics or family planning.
Some planning may be needed to have a condom handy at the time of sex. However, they may be inserted up to 8 hours before intercourse. You may also make inserting the condom part of your lovemaking.
Also sales of female condoms for the health protection purpose have been disappointing in developed countries, though developing countries are increasingly using them to complement already existing family planning and HIV/AIDS programming.
Probable causes for poor sales are that inserting the female condom is a skill that has to be learned and that female condoms can be significantly more expensive than male condoms (upwards of 2 or 3 times the cost).
Although the number of female condoms used is reported to be low, statistics show that women in the country are at high risk of being infected with HIV/ AIDS.
According to the National AIDS Control Program Report, women in Tanzania are particularly exposed to HIV and AIDS. In 2008, women comprised over 60 percent of people living with HIV in the country.
Among the 15-24 age group, this figure rises to 75 percent. Women tend to become infected earlier, which is partly due to the tendency of women having older partners or getting married early.
Another reason for the higher prevalence is the difficulty women experience in negotiating safer sex, often due to having to please partners, or worrying about violence from them.
Women’s dependency is reflected in the widespread culture of ‘sugar daddies,’ women often accept sexual advances of older men for a variety of reasons including regular care or occasional benefit.
Refusal to use condoms hasn’t been investigated as to which sections of men accept to use condoms and who do not, partially because the matter was made controversial by the intrusion of religious authorities as if it was a doctrinal or faith matter and not just a health issue.