By Robert Tapfumaneyi
STUDENTS at Masvingo Polytechnic College are using at least 3 000 male condoms per month although some are less inspired by what they find as a pungent smell produced by the freely distributed contraceptive during and use.
This emerged during a recent tour in Masvingo by the National Aids Council (NAC) and some local journalists.
NAC and partner organisations distribute free condoms to so-called HIV/Aids hotspots, with the tertiary institution identified as one of them.
HIV/Aids hot spots are places seen as having a high sexual activity and hence, more likely to experience high infections.
During a stopover at Masvingo Polytechnic, it emerged that the use of the male condom was very high among the adult learners while the uptake of the female condom remained very low.
Only a mere 100 per month were being withdrawn from the condom dispenser installed by NAC within the school premises.
Students said the condoms which were freely obtainable within the school were of cheap quality with their biggest disadvantage being the “disgusting odour” they produced upon use.
Some said they could easily pick out from a group, any individual who has just had sex using the contraceptive.
The much resented condoms are often referred to as madembare.
“The best you can do for us is to supply students with flavoured condoms,”said Portia Munhukwa, a peer educator with National Aids Council.
“The situation becomes worse when students decide to go and have sex in between lectures…when you come back, everyone can easily pick out the smell and you will feel embarrassed. They are also too oily.
“On the madembare condoms, let me honest with you, they have a bad smell.”
Apart from the unpleasant smell, Portia said, the condoms have helped bring down cases of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) with less than 10 new STI cases now being reported per month compared to hundreds in past years.
“When I started working here in 2018, I discovered that the issue of STIs was a bigger issue, and then we started educating the students on how to protect themselves and promoting the use of condoms,” she said.
“Some of the first year female students will be so young and vulnerable and due to peer pressure, end up looking up to older men to supplement their living costs and in the process, giving in to demands for unprotected sex.
“We have also empowered the female students to always carry condoms and never be found wanting,” she said.
Commenting on the low uptake of the female condom, Munhukwa said many users find the time one spent putting on it as way too long.
“Like putting it on at 3pm and waiting for a boyfriend who will come at 8pm. The girls are saying that’s impossible. They wish if there was another way,” she said.
The high demand for male condoms also comes at a time when information form National Aids Council shows that morning after pill is on high demand among female students at most institutions of higher learning in Masvingo urban.