Cape Town -
Strawberry, banana, chocolate, vanilla. These are not flavours one would normally associate with government-issued condoms which, right now, are all “safe beige” in both personality and colour.
But, if the minister of health makes good on a promise made at the launch of a national HIV survey on Tuesday morning, all this could change.
“People are suffering from condom fatigue,” said Aaron Motsoaledi, “or perhaps the standard issue ‘choice’ condoms just aren’t cool enough.
“We need to inject enthusiasm into the condom campaign, and we are about to start rolling out new types of free, coloured condoms which are also flavoured.”
The condoms will first be distributed in tertiary education institutions, and will appear in about a month, said Motsoaledi.
The campaign is in response to worrying statistics revealed in the national HIV study launched on Tuesday by the Human Sciences Research Council: condom use among both genders from 15 to 49 has declined since the previous study in 2008.
In 2002, figures were at their lowest, but the study of 2005 showed a sharp increase. By 2008, condom use had reached an all-time high, especially in the 15 to 24 age group: 85% of males were using them, and 66% of females.
In the latest study, however, the figure had dropped to 67% for males and 50% for females.
Also of “major concern”, said Science and Technology Minister Derek Hanekom, was that 54% of people between 15 and 49 living with their partners had never used a condom.
Another high risk group, the study revealed, was disabled people 15 years and older among whom nearly 57% had never used a condom.
“We need to increase our campaigns and not just assume the spread of knowledge,” said Motsoaledi.
Olive Sishana, principal researcher on the study, said that in 2012, the rate of people buying condoms had, for the first time, exceeded the rate of those making use of the free condoms issued by the government.
Durex, with a broad variety of flavours and textured condoms, said its flavoured condoms were “intended primarily for vaginal sex”, but that, if they were used for oral sex, the lubricant was safe to ingest.
The department of health was still in the process of selecting a provider of the new condoms.