The Sunday Mail
AS prices of basic commodities continue to soar, prices for contraceptives such as condoms and birth control pills have not been spared.
Some enterprising traders are even selling them in foreign currency, which is beyond the reach of many.
This has left society exposed to an increasing number of unwanted pregnancies, which in turn is fuelling illegal abortions.
The cheapest birth control pills now cost US$2 for two packets (60 pills), or $40.
Condoms range between $10 and $45, while the morning after pills are pegged at US$3. However, contraceptives are offered for free at the country’s public health institutions. This, of course, is subject to availability.
But considering the high prices of the contraceptives, how then are people protecting themselves against Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STIs) and unwanted pregnancies?
Mathew Manowa, a pharmacist, revealed that there has been a decline in the sales of contraceptives. Manowa said the products are sometimes unavailable, which has left society in a quandary.
“People no longer buy condoms, morning after pills and even the birth control pills as much as they used to. It may be because of the crazy prices that we now charge. This has led many to opt to purchase from backyards. Unfortunately, the black market sells expired products.
“With the prevailing economic challenges, many pharmacies are out of stock most of the time, thereby leaving clients exposed to high risks of STIs and unwanted pregnancies,” he said.
Commercial sex workers also decried the steep prices and unavailability of the contraceptives. They said this was impacting their “business” negatively .
“Things are tough and we are getting very little. We cannot afford to buy the contraceptives,” said Sheila, a commercial sex worker in Glen View, adding: “Our job depends on condoms and these pills. Now we are shifting to other risky methods, like withdrawing.”
Clever Murangiwa, a Waterfalls father of two who vends in Harare’s CBD, feels the contraceptives’ high prices are a threat to the entire society.
“If protection is expensive, I am exposed, my wife is in danger and even our teenagers are at risk because the truth is that these children are already sexually active. Young girls have become exposed to unwanted pregnancies, which in turn leads to abortion. Now the problem is that they are turning to backyard, unsafe abortions,” said Murangiwa.
Citizens Health Watch trustee, Fungisai Dube, said pricy contraceptives posed a grave danger to society as reflected in an increase in the number of unwanted pregnancies and STI infections.
“Abortions are on the rise, prices are soaring and most people cannot afford the contraceptives. ln fact, the contraceptives are now a ‘luxury’. The reproductive health is grossly affected as most people are exposed to various types of STIs and unwanted pregnancies, which is exacerbating unsafe abortions. With an increased number of unwanted pregnancies, it is also a fact that bogus healers are also on the rise. lf nothing is done, women are in real danger,” said Dube.
Chief executive officer of Biotech Health Group, Dr Takudzwa Mutsvanga, said while it was affecting the entire society, the scarcity of contraceptives as well as their high prices was impacting severely the reproductive health of young women and girls in particular.
“Most girls underestimate the complications that arise from contraceptive-related issues and unsafe abortions. Something needs to be done urgently because abortion is a very sensitive issue. It has to be promptly addressed,” he said.