February 13, 2015 By Regina Pratt
United Nations Population Fund (UNPFA) Assistant Country Representative, Mr. Ibrahim S. Kamara, says this year’s International Condom Day would be commemorated on the theme “Using condoms regularly is cool”, and would deliberately target Valentine’s Day on February 14, a day many call ‘lovers day’ and invariably have sexual intercourse with their partners, most without condom.
Kamara was speaking on Thursday February 12 to journalists at the YWCA Old Hall, Brookfields in Freetown on the topic: “The importance of condoms in protecting the sexual and reproductive health of especially the young people”.
He noted that decisions about love have their “risks and challenges” particularly among young people, while “protecting sexual and reproductive health of young people requires that quality SRH information and services are provided to them to protect themselves from Sexually Transmitted Infections (including HIV, Syphilis, Gonorrhea etc), as well as unintended/unwanted pregnancies – condoms remain the only form of contractive commodity to provide this dual protection”.
He said: “UNFPA estimates that 18.6 billion condoms will be needed for STI/HIV prevention in the developing world in 2015 at a cost of US$557 million, excluding substantial delivery and distribution.”
He disclosed that four million pieces of ‘Love Condoms’ arrived in the country in November 2014, while a new order had been placed for an additional 8 million as part of a condom use promotion by the UNFPA.
He revealed that condom use in Sierra Leone remains amongst the lowest in the sub-region, adding that the 2013 Demographic Health Survey showed a declining trend in condom use among many age groups, in particular people with multiple partners.
The assistant UNFPA representative commended implementing partners, especially the National HIV/AIDS Secretariat, for providing information, developing sensitization campaigns, mobilizing young people and ensuring that condoms are available at health facilities nationwide.
Claire Barder, Director of Programmes at Save the Children, noted that condom use declined despite NGOs scaling up their campaign for people to use it, urging the need for a feedback and developing a bigger campaign.
Deputy Director of NAS, Abdul Rahman Sesay, said they were focused on the use of condoms as they were aware of the implications of the Ebola virus disease.
He reckoned that Condom Day ought to be every day, while noting that the Ebola outbreak might have increased the use of condoms, and commended the UNFPA for their support.
Mr. Martin Elle, who represented the Network of People Living with HIV (NETHIPS), spoke on the topic, “The importance of condoms in preventing new HIV infection among sexually active population especially young people”.
He said International Condom Day should be dedicated to reflecting on the gains and challenges of preventing HIV in Sierra Leone, adding that NETHIPS promotes condom use as an important aspect of positive living among its members.
“On the issue of low condom use, we will use this forum to call on all partners to consider the urgent review of condom programming and develop a road map for Sierra Leone,” Elle said.
IEC/BCC Coordinator for NAS, Mr. Abu B.B. Koroma, said International Condom Day would be commemorated from February 10 to 16 by distributing condoms to people, especially young people.
He said Valentine’s Day was targeted because most teenage girls might lose their innocence on the day, adding that most HIV infections are as a result of unprotected sex.