The Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Madam Julia Duncan Cassell, has stated that although 90 percent of Liberians are aware of the benefits of condoms, yet only three out of 10 use it during sexual intercourse.
Min. Cassell, who quoted the 2013 Liberian Demographic and Health Survey (LDHS), also disclosed that “only two out of 10 women and approximately 4.5 out of 10 men used condoms during their last sexual activities.”
The Min. further stated that, “Among women and men who were reported having multiple sex partners, only 19 percent of women and 23 percent of men used condoms during their last sexual contacts.” She added that because of the irregular use of condoms, which helps to prevent unwanted pregnancy, HIV and AIDS and other Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), “nearly four of 10 girls are pregnant before the age of 19.”
The Gender Minister announced these disturbing statistics yesterday when she launched the National Condom Promotion Campaign at the Monrovia City Hall. The campaign is being held under the theme, “Use Condoms, Stay Safe.”
These are troubling statistics as Liberia has a very young and growing population a majority of who are below the age of 30.
Minister Cassell stated that as evidenced by the statistics, it is clear that women and girls are most unlikely to use condoms during sexual contact. “This is generally due to the fact that women and girls have limited negotiating power during sexual activity in relation to how, where and when the act takes place,” she maintained.
“This can be attributed to the socio-economic and cultural inequality that exists between men and women in Liberia,” said Madam Cassell.
She urged young and older people who are sexually active and have multiple sexual partners, to use condoms which is a barrier device that may reduce the probability of pregnancy and the spreading of STIs.
She stated that the benefits of condom, when used correctly and consistently, have dual-protective capacity, including blocking unwanted pregnancy and STIs. The Min. also stated that the benefits also boost self-esteem and the confidence of its users and promote hygiene after sexual intercourse.
Following the Minister, Liberia-Ghanaian-based movie star, Joseph Van Vicker, who is also Goodwill Ambassador for the Federation of Liberian Youth (FLY), had a pre-recorded video message, especially for the young people. It says, “Use Condoms and Stay Safe.”
The Officer in Charge of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Dr. Oluremi Sogunro, stated among other things: “Today UNFPA joins the Government and our partners to launch a national campaign with the aim of promoting safe sex by making condoms available to the people.”
He said while Ebola is now considered as an STI, condom usage may help prevent its transmission.
Dr. Sogunro referred to condoms as “currently the only effectively technology to prevent HIV and other STIs as well as unintended pregnancies,” adding that both male and female condoms are inexpensive and cost effective.
Montserrado County Representative Munah P. Youngblood said she was glad that young people these days can be told openly about sex, its implications and the use of condoms.
She buttressed Ivorian Ambassador Kapieletien Soro, who earlier stated that it was forbidden in Africa to speak about sex in the open and with young children. Today’s generations are blessed he said because they can openly engage in discussions about condoms and sex so that they can learn, prevent and protect themselves until they are ready.
Dr. Francis Kateh, Chief Medical Officer (CMO) of Liberia, also urged young people to see condoms as their friends.
Meanwhile outside the hall, various health stakeholders set up mini tents and their representatives were enthusiastically distributing the commodity to everyone, including those in vehicles.
The mass condom distribution campaign is for six months and will extend to all the 15 counties.