The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) on 13 February joined the National AIDS Secretariat, UNAIDS and other partners in marking International Condom Day, a day observed yearly to remind the world about the importance of condoms as a means of preventing unintended pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections and HIV.
In Makeni and Magburaka, UNFPA joined partners to engage with young people from various Universities and Colleges in Sierra Leone to hear their views on promoting use of condoms, avoiding risky sexual behaviours and working together to create safer and healthier communities.
Sierra Leone has one of the highest rates of adolescent pregnancy globally with 1 in 3 women giving birth by the age of 18. The country’s Demographic and Health Survey showed that HIV prevalence grew from 1.5% in 2013 to 1.7% in 2019, with a disproportionate impact on key populations. The country also faces high rates of sexually transmitted infections, with 22% of women and 14% of men who had ever had sexual intercourse reporting having an STI or symptoms of an STI in 2019.
UNFPA works with the Government and other partners in improving sexual and reproductive health and ending unmet need for family planning, providing about 90 percent of family planning commodities in Sierra Leone. In 2022 alone, UNFPA procured over 3.5 million quality-assured male and female condoms for Sierra Leone, while also helping to improve availability and reach to the last mile.
This year’s condom day celebration took a reflective look at progress and challenges in promoting safe sex and raised awareness on the importance of consistent and correct use of condoms through conversations with young people. The discussions also addressed the need to destigmatize condom use and eliminate the shame that is often associated with buying and carrying them, especially for women.
Speaking ahead of the celebrations, UNFPA Representative, Ms. Nadia Rasheed emphasized the agency’s commitment to working with Government and other partners to expand access to sexual and reproductive health and family planning services, including through the procurement of reproductive health commodities.
“UNFPA is delighted to join partners in marking International Condom Day. We recognize that too many people still face barriers in accessing and using condoms. This is particularly true for young people, who often lack the information, services and support they need to make informed choices to protect their health and well-being. This commemoration is a reminder that we must do more to guarantee that everyone has access to the tools they need to stay healthy and safe, including by ensuring that services are youth-friendly and free of stigma or discrimination”, Ms. Rasheed said.
Commenting on the day, Director-General of the National HIV/AIDS Secretariat, Mr. Abdul Rahman Seesay said that increased information and awareness of condoms was critical to addressing HIV among young people and vulnerable populations. He called for “all partners to join hands in promoting consistent and correct use of condoms for triple protection, which means prevention of unintended pregnancy, HIV and other STIs. All service points for HIV, family planning, and other sexual and reproductive health services should integrate messages on condom use. Such an integrated approach can lead to significant reduction in new HIV infections and STIs, as well as reduction of teenage pregnancy.”
This year’s Condom Day Commemoration was also observed through dialogue sessions with university students in Freetown and Makeni, a PLAY SAFE football match with male and female teams, a marathon and a student-led condom fashion show in Makeni, among other activities.
Organizations partnering in this initiative include the National AIDS Secretariat, UNFPA, UNAIDS, Care International, Jhpiego, Aids Health Foundation, Planned Parenthood Association of Sierra Leone and the Network of HIV Positives in Sierra Leone, along with the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, the Ministry of Youth Affairs, and the Ministry of Technical and Higher Education.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of UNFPA Sierra Leone.