Condom-use Awareness Messages Not Effective Enough

Despite decades of condom use awareness, gaps still remain in the way the public receives and makes use of the information.

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The Aids Indicator Survey2011shows that the average age for first sexual intercourse in Uganda is 17 for women and 18 for men. At this age, young people should have information about reproductive health options like proper condom-use.

Despite decades of condom use awareness, gaps still remain in the way the public receives and makes use of the information.

Ritah Nansukusais is a 20-year-old Ugandan, just out of high school. On Thursday, Uganda Radio Network met her at a reproductive health and HIV awareness clinic, where she had come to get information on reproductive health methods, especially condom-use.

She says that though she had heard a varied range of messages on how to use a condom, she doesn’t feel like she knows enough.

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Lillian Namyalo, a Peer Educator with Reproductive Health Uganda, talks to young people about proper condom-use as a reproductive health method and HIV/AIDS preventive measure. She carries out demonstrations on the proper way to wear a condom, and also asks her audience to give feedback on what they have learnt.

But Namyalo doesn’t think this method is entirely effective and her team is trying to be innovative with the awareness messages.

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Jackson Chekweko, the Executive Director of Reproductive Health Uganda, says the country needs national coverage and state sponsored awareness messages. He says that most condom-use awareness messages are by marketers who want to sell products, but no one is telling Ugandans about free condoms in public health facilities.

Across the border in Kenya, though most of the awareness campaigns are led by non-governmental actors as well, some of the organizations seem to be taking on aggressive approaches. Stanley Ngara, a Social Worker with the Liverpool Voluntary Counseling and Treatment project in Nairobi, has branded himself “The Condom King”.

His day job involves distributing condoms to people on the streets, but more especially to sex workers and truck drivers. Ngara walks around the city with a crown of condoms, and a garland of condoms across his chest. He says that in ten years of working in sexual and reproductive health awareness, he noticed that the subtle messages don’t work.

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