Just months after the Pope denounced condom use in Africa, Rwanda’s Deputy Speaker of Parliament Dr. Jean Damascene Ntawukuriryayo said that the answer to his country’s high fertility rate, paired with a 52 percent poverty rate, is helping his people to drop the stigma attached to condoms.
Last Monday, Dr. Ntawukuriryayo hosted an awards ceremony who journalists who were helping to “who have created significant awareness on the use of family planning methods—a prerequisite for development,” according to an article by Irene V. Nambi in Rwanda’s daily The New Times.
“While addressing the media, Ntawukuriryayo, who is also a former health minister argued that emphasizing abstinence is not practical adding that if condoms are within reach for the entire population then the ‘stigma’ about their use will cease to exist.
“‘Condoms are used for family planning. They help the users to avoid unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. Unfortunately most people still think that they are manufactured for sex workers.’”
Sex. Abortion. Parenthood. Power.
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This comes at an important time for Rwanda, which has been trying to curb the HIV/AIDS epidemic that currently affects about 2.8 percent of the country’s population, according to a 2008 estimate from the CIA World Factbook.
This also comes at a time when relationships among young women and older men—who are more likely to be infected than their younger counterparts—have become quite common. According to The New Times, one in ten girls have their first sexual experience with someone at least 10 years older. As a result, 20-24 year old girls are five times more likely to be infected with HIV than boys of the same age. In response, the Ministry of Youth has launched a six-month campaign against the “Cross-Generational Relationships,” as they are known.
But while discouraging potentially hazardous relationships will be helpful in the fight, preventing the spread of disease can simply be sex education. As the former Deputy Health Minister, Dr. Ntawukuriryayo understands that increased use of contraceptives will improve the health of Rwanda, decrease the fertility rate (currently around 5.5), and pave the way for successful development.