Government cuts condom prices by 40 percent to help AIDS fight

GABON: Government cuts condom prices by 40 percent to help AIDS fight

LIBREVILLE, 21 Sep 2005 (PLUSNEWS) - Gabon is slashing the price of male condoms in government-approved health centres by 40 percent in a bid to help prevent new HIV infections, health officials in the Central African country said.

Gabriel Malonga, the director of Gabon's National Programme To Fight AIDS (PNLS), said that people would not have to pay more than 15 CFA (around 3 US cents) for a condom purchased at one of the centres, compared with the old price of 25 CFA.

"It's a price that beats all the competition, because what's important to us, first and foremost, is health," Malonga told IRIN.

Sheaths sold by street vendors can cost as much as 125 CFA, while pharmacies sell packs that can work out at about 1,000 CFA per condom, depending on the brand.

Gabon's official HIV prevalence rate stands at 8.1 percent, although the figure has been extrapolated from only four of the country's nine regions.

Authorities in Gabon have been stepping up the fight against HIV/AIDS this year. At the end of April, the government agreed to provide free testing and life-prolonging antiretroviral drugs to students and vulnerable populations.

Health officials, alarmed by data showing that almost half of 15 to 19-year-old males had had their first sexual experience at the age of 15, have been targeting teenagers and students in particular.

And Malonga of the PNLS said the cut-price condoms were part of that campaign. The government-approved health centres sell around 120,000 condoms each month in Libreville and other big cities nationwide.

"Lots of young people have sex without protection and that's a time-bomb for us," Malonga said. "We need to reinforce prevention messages so that our young people change their behaviour."

Female condoms, which retail at 100 CFA (20 US cents), are not affected by this month's price cuts.


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