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Shops and bars in and around Masvingo have gone for some time without Protector Plus condoms, with shop owners raising alarm over the shortage which may develop into a catastrophe as the product is the most preferred over alternatives.
Some bar owners who buy the condoms brand for resale from wholesale shops have said they have gone for nearly two months without accessing the product from wholesalers.
A bar owner who declined to be named said many of his customers shun other condom brands preferring Protector Plus, which is mainly an attitude problem leading to low uptake of condoms, therefore risking sexually transmitted diseases.
“This is really concerning. We have gone for nearly two months without accessing Protector Plus condoms from wholesalers. Mind you this is the brand of condoms most of our patrons prefer and this may cause low uptake of condoms resulting in STDs and other consequences of unsafe sex.
“Even if you go into the big supermarkets you will not get them because they are just not being distributed as effectively as before. We really hope this is temporary because it will be a catastrophe,” the bar owner said.
A snap survey in local supermarkets in Masvingo CBD indicated that the product was not on the shelves, with only one of the big local supermarkets having a few packets in stock.
A source in sexual and reproductive health circles however said that there seemed to be a defunding agenda on Protector Plus condoms, which could be influenced by either the fact that Zimbabwe is no longer a high risk country in HIV/Aids or the currently topical Private Voluntary Organisations (PVO) bill.
“Protector Plus condoms may be facing defunding and it is a nationwide problem, which can be evidenced by their shortages in shops, with a number of factors at play,” the source said.
Zimbabwe National Family Planning Council Masvingo Provincial Communications Officer Hebert Chikosi said the province had enough condoms in all their brands, attributing the shortages to distribution glitches from private players.
“I want to assure people that we have enough condoms for the province and all the brands. The shortage could be as a result of distribution glitches from our private players,” Chikosi said.
He added that they were going to have a technical working group meeting on condoms Tuesday (March 14) to address stakeholders’ issues.
“We are putting our ducks in a row to ensure that such gaps are closed. Our aim is to make our province reach a percapita condom of 12. We continue to encourage our users to correctly and consistently use condoms as they help in preventing unwanted pregnancies as well as sexually transmitted infections,” Chikosi said.
Efforts to get a comment from News Start Centre were fruitless as the phone went unanswered until the time of writing.