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SENEGAL: Condom use up 300 percent in last decade

Condom use has increased threefold over the past decade in Senegal, a country with one of the lowest HIV prevalence rates in Africa, health workers and officials told PlusNews.

Almost 10 million subsidised condoms were handed out free of charge or sold at rock bottom prices in the West African country last year, up from 3.5 million in 1995, the head of ADEMAS, a social marketing agency, told PlusNews.

Seynabou Mbengue Sow said more than half of the condoms were distributed free of charge and most of the remainder were sold by ADEMAS at the subsidised price of 150 CFA francs (30 US cents) for a pack of three.

The non profit-making agency is financed by the US Agency for International Development (USAID).

"Users are mainly males aged between 18 and 44 who live in urban areas," Sow said. "But because of polygamy, women too are buying them."

She said ADEMAS had run into problems in finding chemists willing to stock condoms in Senegal, a devoutly Muslim nation of 10 million people.

But she added: "It's not so much religion, it's a social problem in Senegal where no-one wants to upset the neighbours."

Sow said campaigns urging the use of condoms to prevent the spread of HIV played up the risk factor and also urged the need for abstinence and faithfulness. Abstinence among 15 to 19-year-olds was 64 percent, she said.

The head of the government-run National Council to Fight AIDS (CNLS), Ibra Ndoye, told journalists this week that the growing use of condoms reflected increasing AIDS awareness in Senegal, which has a relatively low HIV prevalence rate of 1.5 percent.

"We need to battle on to maintain this rate," he said.

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[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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