With over 260,000 sexually transmitted infections (STIs) recorded in Malawi in 2016; the Ministry of Health on Friday launched a new National Condom Strategy and a revised Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) Management Guidelines.
The new National Condom Strategy aims at improving condom availability and use amongst sexually active persons, which government says still remain inconsistent.
Current statistics show that only four condoms are being used per person per year.
The new Sexually Transmitted Infections Management Guidelines contains revised treatment regimens, and how to deal with new emerging syndromes.
Minister of Health Atupele Muluzi, officially launched the two documents at Bingu International Convention Centre in Lilongwe.
He said the two documents will help Government guide the coordination and policy direction in the fight against new STIs, HIV, and unintended pregnancies.
Muluzi said despite the country having registered a success in managing STIs, there is still a lot to be done in order to lower the infections rates.
He said this was the right time to ramp up efforts in ensuring that more Malawians are using protection (condoms) and enjoy the health benefits associated with that, especially amongst the youth.
“I think it is extremely important we should have this conversation especially amongst young people who are sexually active, because they need protection.
“That why we felt it was extremely important to improve in terms of disseminating the importance of making sure that those of us that are sexually active, are using condoms to protect ourselves against STIs, HIV, and unintended pregnancies,” the Minister explained.
Muluzi said Government recognizes the conflict of condom use against cultural and religious beliefs.
He urged traditional and faith leaders to join this conversation; he said there are lessons to be learnt from other countries that realize the importance of advocating condom-use.
“But we have to recognize the sensitivities around those issues and ensure we have a very constructive conversation about how we can address these real issues affecting young people and Malawians,” Muluzi added.
The Minister bemoaned the current low statistics on condom use in the country; he said low condone-use shows Malawians have very little knowledge and confidence in condoms.
“There is a notion of ‘it would not happen to me, I could continue having multiple (sexual) partners and unprotected sex’. But the reality is very different.
“That is why we are ramping up our efforts to get more people informed about the fortunes of using condoms as the best line of defense against STIs, HIV, and unintended pregnancies, especially on the adolescence girls who are sexually active,” he pointed out.
Director in the department of HIV and AIDS in the MoH, Rose Nyirenda
said the Ministry is responsible in the bio-medical response for HIV and is to provide policy direction for the bio-medical interventions.
She said STIs are one of the key areas and that condoms are one of the bio-medical interventions.
Nyirenda said Malawi’s last condom strategy ended in 2013, and there was need to have a new one in order to take the message of condom use back to the people, especially after observing that there is low condom use.
“We observed that we were having challenges in terms of people accessing condoms. So we needed to strategize on how best we can make condoms (available) in the public and private sector, for people living in both urban and rural settings.
“And also to those who will be accessing them freely and those who will be paying for them in various places like pharmacies and shops,” the Director noted.
On the revised STIs management guidelines, which were last revised in 2008, she said through the World Health Organization, there are several emerging issues that need to be addressed.
These include the emergence of anti-microbial resistance and new infections that previously were not there like the occurring infections in the anal rectal area.