– The Sex Workers Advocacy Group (SWAG) has called upon the government to rebrand and add lubricants to the Panther condom saying men despised the freely distributed condom and some were not willing to make use of it.
The sex workers were speaking at a workshop called provincial SWAG dialogue organised by Batanai HIV and AIDS Service Organization (BHASO) at Chevron Hotel.
The workshop was meant to discuss problems faced by sex workers and find solutions so as to meet the government’s policy towards HIV and Aids.
Popularly known as the ‘ma deMbare’ due to its distinctive blue and white colours synonymous with Dynamos Football Club, the Panther condom, the sex workers said, was also uncomfortable during sex.
“We are asking for authorities to rebrand the ‘deMbare’ condom because our clients do not want to use it because it’s itchy and this leaves us without option. We end up having unprotected sex,” said one sex worker.
They appealed for the provision of extra lubricants for free condoms so that they become more appealing, comfortable and less likely to burst during sex.
The Zimbabwe National Family Planning Council (ZNFPC) board chairperson Peter Vhoko told the gathering that the suggestions may take some time to implement because the condom is not manufactured in locally.
“The request has however been send to the manufacturer. My organisation and its partners will make noise and do follow ups to make sure the request is taken care of,” Vhoko said.
The ‘sisters’, as the sex workers called themselves, also asked for the legalisation of prostitution so as to end stigmatisation.
Sex workers, they said, need to be supported through funding for income generation projects as most of them were in it not out of choice but out of necessity.
“If we are given something to do we won’t risk our heath by engaging in unprotected sex,” another sex worker said.
Statistics show that Zimbabwe is one of the countries with the highest condom use in the world.
Many Africans, however, have negative perceptions of freely distributed condoms which they regard as of poor quality.