The uptake of female condoms as a contraceptive me t h o d h a s continued to be low in health centres in Mansa district in Luapula Province. The low uptake of the commodity has been influenced by cultural norms and myths in various communities. Monthly statistics on demand and distribution of female condoms at Mansa Central Clinic, Mansa General Hospital, Muwang’uni Clinic and Senama First Level Hospital revealed zero distribution since January this year.
According to health personnel at selected health facilities, the low uptake has nothing to do with awareness or supply of the commodity but women are naturally not interested in using female condoms for fear of being misunderstood. Jane Kabaso, a community health assistant at Mansa Central Clinic, said in an interview that some women shun the female condom because of the stigma associated with its use. “We have adequate supplies here and at district level too.
The biggest challenge is that people fear the name at a health centre or in the community. People in these communities know about the female condom because we usually do a door-to-door sensitisation,” Ms Kabaso said. At Senama, Mercy Lwanga, a resident, said she fears accessing female condoms because her partner usually accuses her of promiscuity and cannot entertain her to use them regardless of their significance. “I no longer use the female condom. Previously, I lost two promising relationships because of the use of female condoms.
I would have been married,” Ms Lwanga said. And speaking earlier during the tour of selected health centres in Mansa district under the Swedish International Development Aid (SIDA) project, Ipas Zambia country director Grace Chiyaba said women should embrace the female condom. Mrs Chiyaba said women carry a disproportionate burden of HIV resulting from numerous physiological, socioeconomic, and cultural factors and unbalanced gender norms on sexual negotiation.
She said various data countrywide shows that over one-third of pregnancies are unplanned and could be avoided through the use of female condoms. “The female condom has comparable dual protective efficacy to male condoms and is frequently cited as a tool for women’s empowerment regarding sexual reproductive health rights,” Mrs Chiyaba said. She said the low uptake of female condoms indicates that the increasing availability of new contraceptive methods does not automatically broaden choice.