BioMed Central Public Health reports that southern Africa has one of the highest rates of adolescent HIV and pregnancy in the world.
Recent trends indicate that interventions focusing on condom use for this age group are still necessary, despite decades of sexual and reproductive health (SRH) programming that targets adolescents.
There has been a dramatic decline in the use of condoms, with most people not using them consistently or often. As a result of poor condom use, approximately more than 1 000 young women were infected weekly with HIV in 2021. This may be contributing to the high rate of adolescent pregnancy and STIs, including HIV.
Just 39% of people over the age of 15 used condoms in 2019, according to Dr Mpumi Zungu, director of HIV/STI and TB and Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC). Feelz founders Waheed and Ammarah Issufo are certain that their innovative new condoms hold the key to the problem’s solution.
A first for South Africa, the condoms are packaged in a buttercup shape that, when opened, displays the condom upright, minimising the chance that it will be worn incorrectly.
The packaging for Feelz condoms also offers clear instructions on how to wear them correctly, a crucial addition that tackles the uncertainty that people have when wearing condoms.
In a study on the proper use of condoms among young people conducted in the US by Mia Barret et al., it was discovered that 70.6% of participants did not squeeze the condom's tip before having intercourse. Youth indicated by 25.0% did not grip the base of the penis when pulling out the condom, and 49.4% did not roll the condom down to the base of the penis, and 36.9% of people said that they had broken or slipped condoms.
The young Durban couple want to target the root of the ill practice of unprotected sex.
“Our view is that people are exposed to unsafe and, most times, over-fantasized sexual practices through media, social media, and television. Think about it, name one movie or TV show that truly illustrates sex scenes where the individuals practise safe sex. This is where the problem lies. Our youth are being misinformed about sex through these mediums. Safe sex is simply not shown or is portrayed as uncool,” said Ammarah Issufo, chief marketing officer at Feelz.
The idea of whipping out a condom “ruining the mood” is demolished by the burst of the bubblegum scent that each of the condoms is infused with, inviting a delightful surprise as opposed to the unpleasant scent of latex. Feelz condoms are available in a classic range, aptly dubbed “The O.G”, “Skin on Skin”, and “3 Sensationz”, the latter offering a combination of a ribbed, contoured, and dotted texture for added pleasure, the epitome of the brand’s name and core value.
“We’re not so much encouraging young people to have sex. We want them to be safe when they do. Pretending that it’s not happening is what is leading to the high numbers of teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections. We want to provide a platform where young people can retrieve informative and helpful information without the red tape,” said the CEO of Feelz, Waheed Issufo.
The duo think that talking in a language that young people understand and being open and honest about sex will be well accepted by the target audience of 18- to 24-year-olds, in contrast to the bland messaging generally used to encourage safe sex.
The Issufos hope that by openly promoting unfiltered talks everywhere young people congregate both physically and electronically, the brand will establish itself as a go-to resource for all things sex and intimacy.
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