CAPE TOWN – The increase in the number of women taking charge of their sexual health is encouraging, the City of Cape Town said on Sunday.
The city’s health directorate had noticed an increase in the number of female condoms distributed via its network of clinics and community outreach campaigns, mayoral committee member for health Siyabulela Mamkeli said.
Last year, more than 1.9 million female condoms were distributed in the city&39;s eight health sub-districts, compared with 1.72 million in 2014.
“The figures are encouraging because this means that more women are becoming aware of the availability of female condoms and being able to take control of their sexual well-being,” Mamkeli said.
There were some problems, such as that the female condom cost the equivalent of eight male condoms, and their use was more difficult to demonstrate.
“If condom manufacturers are able to address these challenges, we would be able to put more women in control of their own health and well-being,” Mamkeli said.
Last year, city health distributed nearly 54 million male condoms and treated a total of 42,713 sexually transmitted infections (STIs), down from 43,190 in 2014.
The city has also started distributing “scented” male condoms to encourage use.
“We continue to face a number of challenges around STI treatment. While there has been a slight drop in the number of cases, it would be too simplistic and nave to attribute it solely to increased treatment and condom usage. People have been known to travel to access STI treatment outside of their areas because they fear being stigmatised. Others simply refuse to get help for the same reason. And, of course, many STIs don’t have significant symptoms and therefore remain undiagnosed for a long time,” Mamkeli said.
Other more unusual problems had centred on the type of condoms distributed through public channels, including complaints that residents simply did not like them.
“The introduction of grape-scented condoms last year to further promote condom usage has been very well received and in a few days’ time other scents like vanilla and banana will be available,” Mamkeli said.
“We are in a position where the numbers are very encouraging, but we have to step up our education and awareness campaigns even more and continue with our condom distribution and other interventions to continue driving down the incidence of sexually transmitted infections.
“As with everything else, this is a shared responsibility. Don’t engage in sexual activity without protection. It is freely available at clinics and other public spaces, so there really is no excuse.
“Also, if you’re contemplating being sexually active, come to our clinics for advice and guidance on the best measures for protection for both you and your partner to prevent the risk of an unplanned pregnancy or of contracting an STI,” Mamkeli said.