June 13, 2011
A statement released Friday at the UN General Assembly High-Level Meeting on AIDS clearly backs condom use as a key tool in the global fight against HIV. According to negotiators, the release stressing the "correct and consistent use of condoms" overcame opposition from the Vatican and conservative Muslim countries. "It is a first at the UN General Assembly," said a diplomat who worked on the negotiations for two months.
The statement, said George Tembo, head of the HIV/AIDS department at the UN Population Fund, is "very explicit and will definitely help our work to overcome resistance and fears about condoms." UNPF estimates the worldwide need for condoms for HIV prevention and family planning has increased from roughly 13 billion in 2004 to around 19 billion last year. The fund released 3.2 billion condoms to targeted countries in 2010, up from 2.7 billion in 2009, said Tembo.
Tembo noted that religious and social barriers to condoms are slowly dissipating. He added, however, "It is not just distributing them: You have to make sure people know about them and know how to use them."
India is conducting "door-to-door distribution" of condoms in 17 provinces that are home to approximately 200 million people, said Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad. The program "will be scaled-up to cover the entire country soon," she noted. In addition, the Red Ribbon Express train crossing India is handing out condoms and HIV prevention information.
Similarly, African countries are stepping-up condom distribution. Esther Murugi Mathenge, Kenya's minister of state for special programs, said demand for condoms there has risen from 8 million per month in 2005 to 20 million per month this year. Cameroon handed out 145 million condoms between 2006 and 2010, said its Health Minister Andre Mama Fouda.