Kampala, Uganda | By Michael Wandati | Ugandan MPs have been inundated with complaints that many condoms on sale in Ugandan market are too small.
The Parliament of Uganda has in turn assigned the Ministry of Health to address the issue of condoms being deemed “too small” for Ugandans, as raised by some legislators during discussions on Uganda’s preparations for the upcoming International Condom Day slated Tuesday 13, February 2023.
International Condom Day is an annual global advocacy event aimed at raising awareness about condom use as a crucial method for preventing Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), including HIV, and unplanned pregnancies.
During Friday’s session, some Members of Parliament noted that many condoms available in the market are not suitable for Ugandans. They also highlighted gaps in educating the public on the proper use of condoms to prevent the transmission of HIV/AIDS.
In response to these concerns, Deputy Speaker Thomas Tayebwa tasked Health Minister Ruth Aceng with addressing the issues raised by the legislators.
“On a very serious note, protection is one of the preventive measures promoted by government and I don’t know why you are laughing, only that it is a day I have never heard of being celebrated,” Tayebwa said.
“But I think Parliament is a platform which we use to inform and educate the public about such issues, so Minister, bring a statement on this,” he said.
Dr. Aceng confirmed the existence of International Condom Day and emphasized that the associated events are organized with the specific purpose of raising awareness and sensitizing the public about the importance of using condoms.
“The member is requesting that we bring a paper here, Speaker, I will leave that to your discretion.”
Annually, over one million people worldwide contract sexually transmitted infections (STIs), coupled with approximately 80 million unintended pregnancies.
In Uganda, data reveals that only 38% of youth aged 25-29 consistently use condoms, and condom usage among women aged 24-25 is notably low. During the COVID-19 lockdown, over 8,000 girls experienced pregnancies.
The World Health Organization (WHO) underscores that unprotected sexual intercourse between individuals with unknown HIV statuses is a primary mode of transmission. Uganda has approximately 1.4 million people living with HIV, with 43% of new infections occurring in the country.
Henry Magala, the country director of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), emphasized last year that prioritizing prevention could potentially avert 70% of diseases in Uganda.
“According to the AIDS 8th review 2021, we had 53,000 new infections and sex accounts for 80% of the HIV infections and other STDs. If the above people had used condoms correctly and consistently, 42,000 new infections would have been averted if the programing was right and condoms available,” Magala said.
Presently, the Central region of Uganda exhibits the highest HIV prevalence at 10.4 percent, primarily attributed to urbanization and the presence of the capital city, Kampala, with a population of 1.5 million.
The recognition of AIDS as a sexually transmitted disease and the realization that barrier methods were the primary means of protection sparked a significant surge in global condom usage.
The history of condoms
Around 3,000 BC, King Minos of Crete used a goat’s bladder sheath for protection during intercourse, aiming to shield his wife from what was believed to be semen filled with ‘serpents and scorpions.’
The history of condoms took a significant turn during the Industrial Revolution in America, with rubber manufacturing initiated. In 1839, Charles Goodyear’s invention of rubber vulcanization paved the way for the first rubber condoms in 1855, although skin condoms remained more popular due to their affordability.
In 1920, latex emerged as a game-changer, produced through a water-suspended rubber process. Latex condoms, being cost-effective and easier to produce, replaced skin condoms in popularity.
Notably, during World War I, the US and Britain initially did not provide condoms to their soldiers, leading to a surge in documented cases of syphilis and gonorrhea.