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Young and old alike joined the conversation on condoms last weekend, following the Condomize! march and education activity at the Kokopo Market, East New Britain. The campaign featured displays of different types of condoms available and focused on destigmatizing condom use, a key step in reducing the incidence of STIs, HIV, and unintended pregnancy.

Before the main event, education sessions were held throughout the week for local volunteers and youth advocates, key populations, informal market vendors, and Public Motor Vehicle and taxi drivers. Attendees reported it was an interesting activity and awareness about condoms was much needed in East New Britain.

East New Britain Family Health Association Provincial Coordinator Ms. Christine Atu, who was in charge of coordinating youth volunteers, her appreciation for hosting this vibrant event in the province.

“Since the establishment of our FHA’s Youth Center two years ago,  distribution of condoms in the communities has been one of our key areas. But the youth themselves are not educated on condoms, the different types of condoms, the different textures and flavors, its benefits, and so on,” said Ms Atu.

An initiative of the United Nations Population Fund with the support of the National Department of Health, National Aids Council Secretariat, UNAIDS, and World Vision, the Condomize! Campaign is an interventions derived from the Comprehensive Condom Programme Strategy to remove the stigma and stereotypes surrounding condoms through education and entertainment.

HIV/AIDS and STIs are on the rise in PNG. Only 60 percent of women living with HIV access Anti-Retroviral Treatment on a regular basis. Rates of syphilis and gonorrhea are rising and both lead to life-long complications, potentially resulting in still-births and other reproductive complications. Condomize! aims to kickstart the conversation on how to protect against STI and HIV/AIDS and is also an opportunity to raise issues about reproductive health and habits that are difficult to discuss due to stigma.

“Now that has all changed with this education session,” said Ms Atu. “Our youth volunteers have broadened their minds and knowledge and they will be able to educate the communities they work in now with accurate, detailed information.”

Condomize! educator Leah Velgema said she learnt through the training that Condoms are 99% effective in protecting against STIs, HIV, and unintended pregnancies.

Another participant at the education session, Ms. Michaelyn Joel, found the sessions quite interesting.

“It was interesting to know that there are flavored condoms because that somehow helps with the stigma woman or man face after sexual activity,” said Ms Joel. “The previous condoms have no flavor and people can tell when a person has had sex because of the funny and common smell. But these flavoured condoms are very different.”

Condomize! is expected to return with the next event planned to take place in Port Moresby.