Black people and the poor had less access to condoms in South Africa during Covid-19 lockdowns
According to research published in 2021, Black people and poor people could not access condoms as easily as other South Africans during the Covid-19 pandemic. Since 7 in 10 South Africans prefer to get condoms freely from public sources, they suggest that the government improves access to condoms during disease outbreaks, for instance through community distribution.
Contraceptives like condoms can prevent unwanted pregnancies. Condoms also reduce sexually transmitted infections like HIV, which is a huge health burden in South Africa. Unfortunately, lockdowns meant to reduce the spread of Covid-19 worsened the shortage of contraceptives in developing countries.
In this study, the researchers specifically looked at access to condoms among South Africans during the 2019 Covid-19 disease outbreak.
The researchers used data that was collected during the first national Covid-19 survey in South Africa. They extracted information such as age and gender, income, access to condoms and where people got condoms.
They found that about 1 in 5 South Africans could not access condoms during the 21-day national lockdown that started on 23 March 2021. The researchers said that Whites, Indians and Asians, and respondents with more income, had more access to condoms compared to black people and the poor. They also found that residents of Kwa-Zulu Natal and Mpumalanga areas were more likely to have access to condoms.
The researchers said that 70% of respondents preferred public sources of condoms, like public hospitals and clinics. Their results also showed that respondents aged 25-34, and those with at least secondary education, were less likely to prefer public condoms.
Public condoms were preferred by those who had less income, were aged 15-24, or those with no education. Whites, Indians and Asians were also less likely to prefer public condoms.
Even though other studies had reported on how limited access to condoms could lead to poor sexual and reproductive health among communities, this was the first study to look specifically at this problem during a disease outbreak in South Africa.
However, the researchers caution that they used national survey data, which did not address some specific questions about condom access, and therefore said more specific research may be needed.
The researchers suggested that one way to increase access to condoms during disease outbreaks would be to distribute free condoms to the public.
Background Evidence has shown that the prescribed lockdown and physical distancing due to the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) have made accessing essential health care services much more difficult in low-and middle-income countries. Access to contraception is an essential service and should not be denied, even in a global crisis, because of its associated health benefits. Therefore, it is important to maintain timely access to contraception without unnecessary barriers. Hence, this study examines the factors contributing to limited access to condoms and preferred source of condoms during the COVID-19 pandemic in South Africa.
Methods This study used data from the National Income Dynamics Study-Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey (NIDS-CRAM) wave 1 survey. The NIDS-CRAM is a nationally representative survey of the National Income Dynamics Survey (NIDS), which involves a sample of South Africans from 2017 NIDS wave 5, who were then re□interviewed via telephone interview. This is the first secondary dataset on coronavirus from NIDS during the coronavirus pandemic. A total of 5,304 respondents were included in the study. Data were analysed using frequencies and percentages, chi-square test and binary logistic regression analysis.
Results Almost one-quarter (22.40%) of South Africans could not access condoms, and every 7 in 10 South Africans preferred public source of condoms. Those who were other population groups [aOR=0.37; 95% CI=0.19-0.74] and those who were in the third wealth quintile [aOR=0.60; 95% CI=0.38-0.93] had lower odds of having access to condoms while those respondents who were aged 25-34 [aOR=0.48; 95% CI=0.27-0.83] and those with a secondary level of education and above [aOR=0.24; 95% CI=0.08-0.71] were less likely to prefer public source of condom.
Conclusion This study concludes that there was limited access to condoms during the COVID-19 pandemic and that the preferred source of condoms was very skewed to public source in South Africa. Strategic interventions such as community distribution of free condoms to avert obstruction of condom access during the COVID-19 pandemic or any future pandemics should be adopted.
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