By Petronella Sibeene
The prevalence rate of HIV/AIDS in the military sector led to the launch yesterday of the “Protector”, a military condom aimed at protecting soldiers from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and HIV.
The 864 000 military condoms as launched by the Ministry of Defence were procured by the United States Department of Defense and together with other equipment donated yesterday, are valued at N$200 000.
“Protector” condoms are covered in “combat gear” that is camouflaged. They are again packaged in a kit as big as an A6 envelope. The kit also contains a leaflet with information on how and why a condom should be used.
These condoms are accessible for free at military counselling and testing centres, military canteens, sick bays and from any HIV peer educators.
Lack of HIV prevention information and commodities, high mobility, personnel staying away from the family for extended periods, increase military staff’s vulnerability to HIV infection.
Although no statistics were revealed, those in the military circles say the manifestation of the disease among the military population is quite high.
“Due to the nature of their duties, military personnel are generally more exposed to the risk of HIV/AIDS than the public,” acknowledged the Minister of Defence Charles Namoloh at the launch yesterday.
He added, it is therefore important that preventative measures and awareness campaigns be intensified in order to curtail the infection rate within the defence force.
The launch of the “Protector” forms part of the Military Action and Prevention Programme (MAPP) implemented by the Social Marketing Association (SMA). The financial resources come from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through the United States Department of Defence (DoD).
“The word protector has been used on the condom foils and the pouches which double as packaging for the condom and IEC (information, education and communication) material. There are three condoms with different flavours and a condom use insert in the pouch,” SMA said.
USA ambassador to Namibia Dennise Mathieu said, “Just as soldiers put on their camouflaged uniforms every day and use camouflaged 4x4s and other equipment in their work, I hope they will rely on the Protector and make it part of their everyday lives and activities.”
She added that by increased, correct and consistent use of these condoms, the Namibia Defence Force will reduce the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the ranks.
However, that should be done in conjunction with other HIV preventative methods such as reducing the number of partners.
The USA has been supportive of Namibia’s efforts in fighting HIV/AIDS in the military field. Last year, together with the ministry, the embassy launched the film “Remember Eliphas Part 2”.
The film depicts a typical soldier, away from his wife while deployed, who gets exposed to alcohol, women and generally, temptation. It shows the face of HIV/AIDS in the military and carries lessons on the disease.
The minister added that Part 3 will soon be launched.