The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Sierra Leone called on young people to embrace the use of condoms as a vital tool for protecting themselves from HIV, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and unintended pregnancies.

Expressing concern over low condom usage rates, Nadia Rasheed, UNFPA Country Representative, cited the 2019 Demographic Health Survey, revealing only 6% of women and 21% of men use condoms with non-marital partners. This statistic is particularly alarming given Sierra Leone’s high adolescent pregnancy rate, with one in three women becoming pregnant before 18.

“International Condom Day presents a crucial opportunity to raise awareness about the essential role condoms play in public health,” Rasheed stated. “Simple, affordable, and effective, condoms offer crucial protection against HIV, STIs, and unintended pregnancies, empowering individuals to control their health and well-being.”

Acknowledging barriers like stigma, particularly affecting young people who may lack information and support, Rasheed emphasized the need for collective action. Studies reveal one in three young individuals carry STIs, highlighting the urgency of ensuring accessibility of protective tools for young men, women, and key populations.

Proudly partnering with the Government of Sierra Leone and other stakeholders, UNFPA supplied nearly 90% of public health commodities, including 8.6 million condoms in the past year. Rasheed stressed the significance of these efforts in achieving the National Development Plan, which prioritizes empowering young people to make informed choices and protect themselves.

Echoing Rasheed’s call, Isaac Ahemensa, UNAIDS Country Director, and Abdul Rahman Sesay, Director General of the National Aids Secretariat, reaffirmed the effectiveness, affordability, and reliability of condoms in preventing HIV and STIs. Both leaders emphasized the need to end stigma, a significant barrier in the fight against HIV, urging communities to take the lead in addressing this issue.