New female condom gets celebrity outing on campus

26 Feb 2014 - 10:45

female condomsSafety first: Media personalities Ryan O'Connor and Kgomotso Matsunyane show how to fit the new female condom, which can be done up to six hours before a sexual encounter.

Former O magazine editor Kgomotso Matsunyane and KFM's Ryan O'Connor launched the distribution of a newly-designed female condom at UCT recently. The University is the first in South Africa to make the new PATH female condoms available to its students.

The condoms are more easily fitted and more comfortable to wear than earlier designs and - like their predecessors - have the potential to help women take responsibility for, and manage, their sexual health.

They are issued by the HIV/AIDS, Inclusivity and Change Unit (HAICU) and Student Wellness - both situated in the Ivan Toms Building on middle campus.

At an O-Week lunchtime event on Jammie Plaza attended by several hundred students, Matsunyane and O'Connor demonstrated how to fit the condom, using a plastic model of a vagina.

Speaking at the launch, Matsunyane voiced her frustration and anger about the fact that young women still make up the majority of new HIV infections.

"The female condom is one more option to safeguard women from HIV infection. It's not 'either' 'or', but here's one more option, which you can insert a long time before the (sexual) encounter," she added.

SRC health representative, Carey Mackintosh also addressed the audience and encouraged sexually active women students to seriously consider using the condom. Mackintosh said that not only could the condom enhance pleasure, but that by using the condom women could exercise ownership of their health and prevent the transmission of STIs.

The launch forms part of a year-long campaign to promote condom use among the student community. The campaign is organised by HAICU, Marian Stevens (who is studying with UCT's African Gender Institute) and Women In Sexual and Reproductive Rights and Health (WISH) Associates. Stevens and HAICU staff are gathering information about UCT staff and students experiences of using the new condom in order to understand its efficacy as a tool to combat HIV and other STIs.

As part of HAICU's Orientation awareness campaign, the new female condoms have already been introduced to several student sectors during 53 peer education workshops for all first-year students; as well as at training sessions for Orientation leaders and sub-wardens. The workshops were all hosted by UCT's AIDS and Change Educators (ACEs), the HAICU-trained peer educators co-ordinated by Stella Kyobula- Mukoza.

The ACEs aim to create awareness about safer sexual practices and to conscientise students about issues related to gender-based violence. They also aim to counter the misconceptions that create the stigma often experienced by members of the LGBQTI community, explains HAICU's Lucina Reddy. The ACEs will address these and other transformation-related issues at a series of workshops and events to be held throughout the year.

Image by Raymond Botha