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HA NTEMA, Maboloka, Mafeteng district, Lesotho – A small community in Lesotho has agreed to take an unusual step to help its young people access condoms, to improve their sexual and reproductive health, and to protect them from HIV infections and unplanned pregnancies.

This community has recognized that making condoms available at the local councillor and chief’s homes as well as at local shops is not adequate for reaching young people, as they may not wish to access them there.

Because talking about sex with their children is not an easy conversation, parents of households in Ha Ntema have resolved to start keeping condoms in their homes to ensure that all of their family members can access them freely. And they won’t keep track of who is using them.

“Since we are not confident to talk to our children about the use of condoms, at least [condoms] will just disappear from our homes and we will know they are being used,” said ‘Maneo Ramabanta, a member of this community.

Mafeteng is among Lesotho’s four districts with a high HIV prevalence, at 25 per cent, according to the Demographic Health Survey (2014).

Lesotho’s HIV prevalence rate has increased from 23 per cent (Demographic Health Survey, 2009) to 25 per cent (DHS, 2014). The HIV prevalence rate was 30 per cent among women and 19 per cent among men (DHS, 2014). Almost 10 per cent of young people aged 15-24 years were HIV positive. Each day, an estimated 52 new HIV infections and 26 AIDS-related deaths occur in Lesotho.

Keeping young people safe from HIV, unplanned pregnancies

This declaration to help protect young people from unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, was made on International Condom Day on 13 February. The action was encouraged by a team consisting of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, the Lesotho Planned Parenthood Association (LPPA) and Mothers to Mothers.

They conducted condom use demonstrations and distributed condoms at a local clinic at livestock offices, where farmers had gathered, and to prison warders at Mafeteng prison. In total, 170 people were reached and shown the correct use of condoms, while more than 11,000 male condoms and 1000 female condoms were distributed. The aim was to promote the prevention of STIs, including HIV, and unwanted pregnancies through raising awareness and supplying free condoms.

I urge women to always take responsibility [for condom use] because men refuse to use them.

"The use of condoms is very important and I urge women to always take responsibility [for use] because men refuse to use them. Even if a male condom is being used, women should check that the condom is fitted well to avoid the risk of infections or unintended pregnancies, which can occur if a condom gets torn," said Kefuoe Mooka, who accepted condoms from the team.

In Qacha’s Nek district, 3200 condoms were distributed at the Youth Resource Centre and on the streets. It was observed that it was mostly men who were interested in receiving the condoms. At Semonkong, more than 200 people were reached with condom use promotion messages and 150 female condoms and 1000 male condoms were distributed. Also shared were Information, Education and Communication (IEC) materials on HIV, as well as music CDS with messages on HIV prevention.

International Condom Day is observed globally to promote the use of condoms to prevent unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections and the spread of HIV through safe sex practices. In Lesotho this year, it was observed through exploring with communities the rationale for using condoms, the procedure for correct condom use, and communicating about condom use.

By Violet Maraisane