Despite the country’s public sector condom programme launched several years ago, where male condoms have been made widely available at no cost to the public, South African adults continue to engage in risky sexual behaviour.
According to the latest SA Demographic and Health Survey, 17% of men and 5% of women between the ages of 15 and 49 years, reported having two or more sexual partners in the past year. Inadequate condom use during the last sexual intercourse was also reported among 58% of women and 65% of men who had multiple partners in the past year.
Unprotected sex increases the risk of contracting HIV, other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unplanned pregnancy, so why are so many South Africans not condomising?
Hilton Julius, VMMC Programme Manager at CareWorks – an HIV management organisation – says there still remains a lot of stigma around condoms.
“Many men and women say sex with a condom just isn’t as enjoyable. They say it takes the spontaneity out of the moment, they have reduced sensation and they don’t like the smell.
“The fact that condom use remains so low after many years of safe sex campaigns, is troubling, but it does however strengthen the case for voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC), which offers partial (60%) protection against HIV for men; as well as having other protective benefits against prostate and penile cancer and other STIs.
14.54 million VMMCs have been performed for HIV prevention in the 14 priority countries, which will avert over half a million new HIV infections through 2030. South Africa has set a new goal of circumcising an additional 2.5 million men by 2022 aged 15-34. An estimated 303 000 infections will be averted if 80% targets are met among 15-34 year-olds by 2028.
“The safest scenario is for men to undergo VMMC to limit their risk of contracting HIV, while also using a condom. Getting medically circumcised also reduces men’s risk of passing on STIs, including the life-threatening human papilloma virus (HPV) to their female partners,” he says.
Julius says in South Africa more than 7 million people are HIV positive, and amongst adults aged 15-49, an estimated 18.9% of the population is HIV positive, which means VMMC should become the norm.
“Last year there were 270 000 new HIV infections. Every effort should be made to stop the spread of HIV.
“Many women, especially, find it difficult to negotiate condom use. That is why people are encouraged to practice combination prevention in order to fully protect themselves. A combination prevention strategy includes VMMC, correct and consistent condom use, treatment of sexually transmitted infections, partner reduction, encouraging youth to delay sexual debut and the provision of antiretroviral treatment for people living with HIV,” concludes Julius.
For further information on medical male circumcision or to book a free procedure, SMS your full name to 35255 and a trained VMMC counsellor will call you back.