Condom users face stigmatisation
By Albertina Nakale
WINDHOEK- Although condom usage is believed to have increased in Namibia compared to previous years, there is still a stigma attached to people who buy condoms from shops or pubs, who are generally seen as promiscous.
For many years there has been a growing negative tendency especially towards women buying condoms, who are seen as “loose or having many indiscriminate or casual sexual relationships”.
Some men even insult their partners who have condoms, which could ultimately lead to physical abuse.
Speaking to New Era yesterday on Namibia’s HIV/AIDS status, the Namibia Network of AIDS Service Organisations (NANASO) Executive Director, Sandie Tjaronda, confirmed there are cases where individuals do not feel free to buy or pick up condoms in public due to the associated stigma.
“We still have stigma because people look at a condom as a sign of promiscuity instead of looking at it as a life-saving measure,” said Tjaronda.
But besides the stigma condoms have become a part of modern life because they not only protect against sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV, gonorrhoea and syphillis, they also protect against unwanted pregnancies.
He however observed the usage of female condoms has not been satisfactory.
“A female condom will empower women to protect themselves against infections. It also gives them negotiating power to negotiate with their partners if they don’t want to use condoms,” he maintained.
He suggested that condoms could also be placed in strategic places such as public bathrooms and not just in shebeens, pubs and hotels.
Women’s ignorance in the use of a female condom leads to high infections because men have more negotiating power, said Tjaronda.
“There is so much myth around the female condom – that it makes noise and it’s too big. So is it about the myth or taking it and using it?” he queried.
He urged women to take precautionary measures and use the female condom.
Tjaronda also said the country has moved out of “the panic mode whereby people in the past painted a picture that if you share a bed or cup with a person infected with HIV/AIDS you will also be infected.”
He applauded government for providing life-saving antiretrovirals (ARVs), with about 90 percent coverage to its people living with HIV and AIDS.
“We have moved out of the panic mode. The stigma was very high that if you share a cup or sleep on the same bed, you will be infected. Now we live with them. We now understand that if you are infected with the virus, you are not sentenced to death. We are now keeping our people alive by putting them on treatment,” he noted.
Further, Tjaronda said people who are on treatment have gone back to their normal lives and are productive citizens at their workplaces.
“If you look in the army, soldiers are doing normal work. Teachers are teaching unlike in the past,” he observed.
He however noted with concern that in some quarters of society, one still finds strong stigma that if someone is infected he or she should be sent home.
“It is a wrong message we are sending out and it’s about time we build a society that is inclusive,” he said.