In Uganda, sensitivity around talking about condoms in public makes it necessary for community leaders to speak openly about the importance of safer sex.
The local council chairman of Ngora town, Ngora district in eastern Uganda, has appealed to the general public to use condoms to protect themselves and their children from HIV.
Stephen Omaido, commonly known as the mayor, said: “The use of condoms is very important, especially among school goers in Uganda. Using them at an early stage will protect teenagers from sexually transmitted infections including HIV, and unwanted pregnancies.”
He also said that it is of paramount importance that every sexually active person in Ngora district must use a condom if he or she cannot abstain.
HIV and condom advocacy
Robert Ocen, acting district health officer for Ngora says there are around 8,300 clients living with HIV who visit the health unit regularly.
Outspoken HIV campaigner Omaido added: “Members of parliament should carry condoms in the boot of their car as they return from advocating about HIV in parliament in order to distribute them to their constituents from time to time.”
He appealed to the Ministry of Health to distribute condoms in hospitals, bars and lodges, bodaboda (motorbike taxi) stops, and video halls where young people gather. He said that he will advocate for condom distribution in public places like offices and shops.
Although condoms can be found in shops some people refuse to serve customers, which makes it difficult for people who want to buy condoms to have safer sex.
The problem for some people selling condoms is they claim that they are holy and do not want to touch condoms. Also, some condom traders just don’t want to be seen dealing in condoms in public places.
Talking openly about condoms
At a recent HIV stakeholders meeting in Soroti involving non-governmental organisations, religious leaders and the media, the councillor for Gweri sub county Richard Ongodia suggested the name condom be changed because it is embarrassing to hear it said in front of children.
Amid laughter from the audience, he said: “The word condom is offensive to me and many people. It is totally embarrassing in public and I suggest it should be called protective gear.”
This sensitivity around talking about condoms in public shows how necessary it is for community leaders to speak openly about the importance of safer sex. Despite different critiques, condoms prevent people acquiring HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. They also help with family planning and preventing unwanted pregnancies, which is particularly important for teenage girls considering the high rate of teenage pregnancies in Uganda.