“I am HIV-positive, and I am sure I acquired the virus through sexual contact,” said Stephen McGill, of the group Stop AIDS in Liberia, at the launch of a campaign promoting condom use. The recent Ebola outbreak has dramatically underscored the importance of condoms in preventing sexually transmitted infections. The campaign, launched by UNFPA and partners, aims to reach 1.5 million Liberians with condoms and related information.
Condom use remains distressingly low in the country. More than 90 percent of people are aware of the benefits of condoms, according to the country’s 2013 demographic and health survey, yet only 3 out of 10 people report using condoms during their last ‘high-risk’ sexual activity. The survey also revealed that, among those with multiple sexual partners, only 19 percent of women and 23 percent of men reported using condoms during their last sexual encounter
So far, about 450,000 male condoms and 10,000 female condoms have been distributed through the campaign, which was unveiled in the capital, Monrovia. Monrovia was badly affected by the Ebola outbreak and has one of the highest HIV prevalence rates in the country. “Use condoms, stay safe,” Mr. McGill announced to an auditorium of young people at the launch. His organization is one of the partners in the campaign.
“Although condoms promotion and distribution is not new in Liberia, the troubling statistics of low usage, coupled with unintended pregnancy and high HIV prevalence, as well as the potential transmission of the Ebola virus through sexual intercourse… are strong indicators that should compel us to reinforce the supply and use of condoms by the population – especially young people,” said Julia Duncan-Cassell, the Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, at the event.