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Cameroon: Campaign to change attitudes to female condom use

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In Cameroon, the prevalence of HIV AIDS is decreasing according to statistics. 

The CAMPHIA survey focused on providing estimates of HIV risk and burden by measuring annual HIV incidence, and prevalence, show that 3.7 percent of adults are living with HIV in Cameroon, representing approximately 500,000 individuals.

The annual rate of new HIV infection among adults was 0.24, or 31,000 new cases per year according to the 2018 survey. But young girls between 15 and 24 years of age are still the most infected segment of the population, presenting the most challenge, in part, due to men's refusal to protect themselves during sex. 

For years, experts have presented the female condom as an effective way around the problem yet societal acceptance of the preservatif option has been poor.

"Sometimes some men arrive here at this bar and meet women. Sometimes they propose you to spend the evening with them and you accept. But when you ask for the preso (condom) he starts to tell you that he does not like that. He has never even used it, and he wouldn't even want to. Most often with some men it's becomes a fight." Chantal a barmaid in Douala said.

The disagreement over condom use is a situation Chantal and many women are familiar with in Cameroun. But this reluctance endangers sexual health, health and wellbeing.

On December 1, 2021 in  Bafoussam, Western Cameroon, a march of support and solidarity to people living with HIV took place. Organizers were seen distributing male condoms, but also female condoms, a prevention tool many on the streets were persuaded to accept.

"No, I've never had to use the female condom, because some people say it's not practical, it's difficult to use, it makes noise during use, which makes me a little skeptical", a student by the name Ange explained.

Female condoms are made from soft, thin synthetic latex or latex. They're worn inside the vagina to prevent semen getting to the womb. If used correctly, female condoms are 95% effective according to the UK's NHS. They protect against pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Florence Yoga is the head of the NGO Women's Horizons West in Cameroon. Yoga believes**_ "the problem of a lack of preference for female condoms in the country, lies in sensitization, negotiation and discussion. _**

"You have to discuss or negotiate this material with partners".she says. "But it's a whole process, it's not easy, but the fight must go on to protect your health" Yoga stressed.

According to the Cameroonian Ministry of Public Health, between 2004 and 2020 HIV prevalence has decreased among the population aged 15 to 49 years, however challenges remain for girls aged 15 to 24 years, who are 9 times more contaminated than boys of the same age group.

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