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Young South Africans don’t want to use government-issued Choice condoms because they offered little when it came to status or branding and were of poor quality.
Recent results from a survey conducted over six months by the Aids Foundation of South Africa showed that 95 percent of South Africans wanted the government to re-brand its Choice condoms to make them more appealing.
Maria Stacey, outreach and development manager of the Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce, said about 10 000 of the prostitutes they worked with complained about Choice condoms, and preferred to use those provided by an international charity.
“Choice condoms are very unsatisfactory and we have a lot of complaints about condoms breaking,” she said.
But the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), an organisation that fights for the rights of people with HIV, encouraged people to make use of condoms provided by government.
“People say the more expensive the condom, the better it is, but in the end, when you take it out of the packaging, a condom is a condom,” said TAC spokeswoman, Sibongile Nkosi.
“I don’t believe Choice condoms are of a lesser quality because they are free. I think people are just concerned with branding.”
According to TAC, South Africa has an HIV rate of 10.9 percent, with KZN being the most affected province at 25.8 percent. ‘
Department of Health spokesman, Fidel Hadebe, said the government had no plan to re-brand the Choice condoms.
In January, the government recalled 1.35 million prophylatics. This was the third recall in less than five years, raising questions about the quality of the 425 million condoms given away each year.
This is a sample of what respondents to the survey said: “It’s better to buy condoms from a shop because they have better quality than those provided by the government,” said a 32-year-old man from Pietermaritzburg.
A 25-year-old man from Durban said he would not want to be seen using a free government condom when on a date. “This would reduce my status, and even if the government were to re-brand, I would rather buy one,” he said.
An 18-year-old Durban woman suggested the government re-brand the condoms every three years.
“The old brand has a lot of stigma and negative stories attached to it. Perhaps re-branding it would increase demand, especially for young people who like to be seen using the latest brands,” she said.
A 50-year-old man of Copesville, near Pietermaritzburg, said Choice condoms burst during sex and were unreliable.
Only five percent of participants in the survey said re-branding was unnecessary.
However, a 30-year-old Durban woman said people would always find excuses not to use them. “It would be a major waste of money to keep re-branding something that works efficiently,” she said.