As the price of condoms skyrockets in Nigeria, medical practitioners and other concerned stakeholders fear that it could lead to low demand and force many people into unsafe sex, which could increase sexually transmitted infections including HIV and a boom in unplanned pregnancies. ANGELA ONWUZOO reports
Stanley Uba was shocked to the marrow when he picked a pack of condoms off the shelf of a supermarket and saw the affixed price.
Curious, at the same time, dumbfounded, he walked up to the cashier with the pack and stammered in a low tone, “How much; is this now the price?”
The young lady, who was eager to attend to other customers clustering around the pay point, blurted impatiently, “That is the price. Please let me attend to other customers if you are not ready,”
Lost in thought, Uba, who had anticipated getting a soothing and rousing romp with his wife after eating his dinner, walked into the dimly lit street.
Prices of condoms, like other commodities, have experienced a drastic upsurge.
Men patronising commercial sex workers, those with side chicks, couples who have adopted the use of condoms as a family planning method and commercial sex workers have unrelentingly, lamented the astronomical hike in the prices of condoms in Nigeria.
Some of the men, who complained bitterly about the price hike, said though they enjoy having raw sex with their wives, it was risky to go the same route with strangers without using condoms.
According to them, the prices of different brands of condoms needed during sex to stop the transmission of infections and protect against unplanned pregnancies have increased by over 300 per cent.
“I never knew that things would be so hard in Nigeria today to the point of condoms becoming too expensive to purchase. A pack of Durex Extra Safe condoms that I bought for N1300 in October is now selling for N2400 depending on where you are buying it.
“When I opted for a cheaper one, Durex Feels, the price went up too. Before, a pack was sold at N300 but now, it is sold at N700”, says Mr Mathew Babawale, a father of four, who told our correspondent that he uses a condom during an intimate sexual relationship with his girlfriend.
The 42-year-old truck driver said, if not that they had been sensitized by some non-governmental organisations about the risk of unprotected sex, he would not have bothered about the condom price hike.
Sharing his concern with PUNCH Healthwise, Babawale, said, “Due to the nature of my work, I am always on the road and many times, I travel outside Lagos to deliver goods and might be away from my family for over two weeks. I am a man, and so the urge to have sex will always be there.
“So, I always have a pack of condoms in my truck, which I use whenever I want to have sex. I usually have raw sex with my wife, and whenever we feel it’s unsafe to avoid unwanted pregnancy, we use the withdrawal method.
“But for my girlfriend and commercial sex workers, I use condoms to avoid having a second wife or contracting an infection. But if condoms become too expensive for the masses to buy, that will not stop us from having sex.
“We will ignore the risk and warning, and have it raw with our girlfriends (partners). The government should stop making things difficult for us.”
WHO on condom safety
The World Health Organisation says condoms, when used correctly and consistently, are safe and highly effective in preventing transmission of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, and unplanned pregnancies.
The WHO said in 2020, 374 million new STIs occurred globally among adults aged 15–49 with one of the four curable STIs: syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhoea and trichomoniasis.
According to the world global health body, the majority of these could be prevented with the correct use of condoms.
“Condoms continue to be an essential and effective tool in the prevention packages for HIV, other STIs and unplanned pregnancy. Condom use has been a significant tool to decrease transmission of HIV globally.
“98 per cent of women whose male partners use male condoms correctly in every sex act over one year will be protected from unplanned pregnancy.
“In addition, over 300 million unplanned pregnancies are estimated to be prevented each year by using contraceptives, including condoms”, the WHO said.
Sex workers lament
A female sex worker, who simply identified herself as Comfort, said she was unhappy with the spike in condom prices, lamenting that the price hike could affect her business, which is what she depends on for survival.
“Already the hardship in the country is negatively affecting our business, “she lamented, puffing on her cigarette and blowing rings of smoke into the air.
“Most customers usually do go for short-time sex (quickie) because they don’t have the money to pay full-time.
“Now that the price of condoms has gone up, we are going to increase our prices because we are the ones buying the condoms, not our clients.
“I consistently use condoms with my clients and I have told some of them to expect an increase in the prices of our services by January 2024. The increase in prices of condoms is not funny at all in this harsh economy.
“A big pack of Kiss condoms that I bought for N2,000 in October is now sold for N6,500. The N4500 difference is a lot of money and this discourages one from buying it.”
Rise in STIs and unplanned pregnancies
The price increase is a serious cause for concern, physicians and pharmacists say, adding that the situation may increase Nigeria’s already high rate of teenage pregnancies and fuel the spread of STIs, especially HIV.
A community pharmacist, Biola Paul-Ozieh, who also confirmed a rise in prices of condoms, said besides unplanned pregnancies and worsening STI spread, the development would soon lead to a scarcity of the consumable.
Paul-Ozieh who is chairman of the Healthcare Providers Association of Nigeria, Lagos State Chapter, said commercial sex workers should insist on the use of condoms with their clients irrespective of the price increase.
She said, “The price of condoms is higher than it used to be. The possibility of people discontinuing the use of condoms is there because of the price. When condom becomes too expensive people may jettison it.
“They will no longer be using it. The use of condoms is one of the behavioural changes we want to instil in people if they can’t abstain from sex or be faithful to their partners.
“We have been able to get to a level of controlling HIV infection spread in Nigeria. We need to maintain it and build on it so that people don’t relax.
“When condoms get out of the reach of the common man, it will increase unplanned pregnancies.”
Astronomical price hike
A market survey carried out by our correspondent this week showed that the prices of all brands of condoms increased sharply between September and November.
Depending on where they are bought from, a pack of Durex Pleasure Me condoms, which cost N1,400 in September, is now sold for 2500, Durex Feels which cost N300, is now sold for N700 per pack, while Durex Extra Safe, sold for N1,100, now goes for N 2,300
A Durex Performer in the period under review sold for N1500, but is now sold for N3500 a pack
The same goes for Durex Mutual Climax, which sold for N1,600 and is now up for grab for as much as N3500
Further findings by PUNCH Healthwise revealed that smaller brands of condoms were not spared the price onslaught.
A pack of Kiss condoms, which sold for N200 in August, now sells for as much as N500, while Gold Circle condoms, which sold for between N150 and N200, is now N500