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81 million condoms distributed in Zimbabwe last year

by Staff reporter
22 Mar 2021 at 06:07hrs | Views
A STAGGERING 81 million condoms were distributed in Zimbabwe last year as the country strives to achieve global HIV testing and condom use targets by 2030.

Zimbabwe ranks number five in Africa in terms of high HIV prevalence at 12,9 percent and like many countries based on prevailing trends may fail to meet the set 2030 global target.

Part of the UNAids targets include ensuring that condom use reaches 90 percent and Aids is eradicated then. In a study presented at the 2021 HIV Research for Prevention Conference in February, researchers said although many countries have upward trends in HIV testing and condom use, the annual rate of increase is too slow.

They concluded that the probabilities of reaching UNAids targets were very low, and that the top three countries are Eswatini (85 percent), Lesotho (75,6 percent) and Namibia (75,5 percent).

Condoms are unique in that they are a barrier method that provides dual protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV as well as unintended pregnancies.

The condom programme has also over the years enabled women who are more vulnerable to STIs and HIV to empower themselves by introducing an innovation in the form of female condoms.

Female condoms have come to add on the platform to male condoms and are a tool that empowers women to have a barrier method that they can control. This has enhanced increased opportunities for protected sex acts and thereby reducing new STIs, including HIV.

In response to questions, Aids and TB Unit director in the Ministry of Health and Child Care Dr Owen Mugurungi said the global pandemic did affect access to HIV preventative as lockdown measures restricted members of the public from travelling.

"A total of 79 604 560 male condoms were distributed and 1 810 139 female condoms were distributed in 2020 in both the public health sector and social sectors. Covid-19 did affect the different HIV prevention programmes because of the mitigation guidelines that were put in place that were necessary to contain the Covid-19," said Dr Mugurungi.

"Despite the lockdown, there were strategies that were developed by the MoHCC to ensure that members of the public were still able to access the HIV prevention services in the context of the epidemic," he said.

In particular, Dr Mugurungi says the public sector condoms were distributed together with food during distribution programmes.

The Protector Plus range of condoms continued to be provided through the usual channels and additional ones during this period in as many outlets as possible. He said that community health workers continue to provide health education and promotion even during the lockdown including condom distribution.

"We also continue to work with the commercial market so that we find ways of supporting them so that condom brands such as Carex, Durex and many more are available for those sections of our community that can afford them.

"We have also seen the Covid-19 bringing in opportunities to enhance promotion of new HIV prevention options such as HIV self-testing. People can now be able to test for HIV in the comfort of their homes," said Dr Mugurungi.

For Dr Mugurungi, the condom programme has also afforded communities with an opportunity to hear more about sexual and reproductive health as well as HIV awareness through the various ''Condomise'' campaigns that have been held over the years.

He said that of all HIV preventive strategies, condoms remain relevant and practical for various population groups, including sexually active young people, pregnant and lactating women, women experiencing complications with hormonal methods of family planning, and other population groups involved in high-risk sex, such as sex workers.

"VMMC services have also been affected as clients during the level one lockdown could not come to access the services. However, we have developed mechanisms to ensure that those who want to get circumcised or access any other HIV prevention services accesses them. Covid-19 safety protocols are carefully observed at each service delivery point," he said.

The ministry also developed guidelines on how clients could access HIV prevention, treatment and care services in the context of Covid-19 pandemic so that no one fails to access relevant services says Dr Mugurungi.

"As a country, we have been doing well, based on the results of our latest Zimbabwe Population-Based HIV Impact Assessment (Zimphia2020). Currently, 86,8 percent of people living with HIV in Zimbabwe now know their status. This is a 10 percent increase from 76,8 percent recorded in the previous survey in 2015. Furthermore, 97 percent of people living with HIV are now on lifelong antiretroviral therapy (ART), which is a remarkable improvement from the previous 88,4 recorded in the last Zimphia. For those on antiretroviral therapy, 90,3 percent of them have achieved viral load suppression, compared to 85,3 percent in the previous survey," her said.

Dr Mugurungi said the 90-90-90 goal progress is a true testimony of the progress Zimbabwe has made.

Source - chroncle