Jamaican Health Minister puts women in the driver’s seat

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In a new campaign for National Safer Sex Week in Jamaica, Minister of Health Hon. Rudyard Spencer has focused on women being in control of their sexual health.  The campaign urges women to get tested for HIV and always use condoms during sex.“Smarter Women Always Buy, Carry, and Use Condoms” is the tagline of the campaign.  National Safer Sex week is the week before Valentine’s Day, which Spencer sees as an opportune time to spread messages around protection.  In a statement to launch the week, Spencer advised women to “keep HIV out of their immune system and discrimination out of their speech and demeanour.”

The Minister attributed high HIV rates in Jamaica to inconsistent condom use, and multiple and concurrent partners.  According to 2007 data, out of the 27,000 people living with HIV in Jamaica, 7600 are women ages 15 and up.

Citing the 2008 National HIV/STI Programmes-commissioned “Knowledge, Attitude, Behaviour and Practice” (KABP) survey, he said that condom usage was more prevalent among men with multiple partners than among females. Fifty eight percent (58%) of females have reportedly never carried a condom.

“This reliance on men to provide condoms is disadvantageous, as the likelihood of risky sex is increased,” the Minister emphasized.

As much as the Minister of Health is urging women to take responsibility for using condoms, no initiatives are currently in place to empower women to negotiate condom use.  How successful do you think this campaign can be without a supplementary campaign to address women’s capacity to purchase, carry, and use condoms effectively?  Read the full report, “Health Minister Appeals to Women to use Condoms,” then start or join the conversation by commenting below.

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