Female condoms are not just for the ladies as some gay men in KaMsogwaba Township outside Nelspruit have found, but nearby clinic nurses are still not sold on the idea.
While not originally designed for use in anal sex, female condoms can be used by men who have sex with men (MSM) during sex in lieu of traditional male condoms.
Now, some gay men in KaMsogwaba, like Zweli Masinga, have caught on to the trend, but he says nurses are unwilling to hand out the female condoms to men looking for an alternative to male condoms.
“We face a lot of discrimination from health professionals when we ask for female condoms,” he tells OurHealth. “Health professionals have no respect for us because we are gay.”
To counter some of the stigma faced by MSMs at some clinics, the HIV non-profit Anova Health runs special MSM-friendly clinics in both Cape Town and Johannesburg. While the organisation notes that female condoms may be more likely than male condoms to slip during anal sex, they can be a viable alternative for HIV prevention, according to its website.
But in KaMsogwaba, clinic staff attitudes and a refusal to dispense the condoms to men may be putting men at risk.
“We get asked why we are using female condoms if we are men,” Masinga says. “Health professionals need to be educated about different sexual orientations and start treating everyone equally.”
“Being discriminated against by health professionals is dangerous if you are indirectly denied services,” he adds.
Nhlanhla Mzimkhule from Ermelo was diagnosed with HIV 13 years ago. While learning how to use a femidom was difficult for him at first, he says eventually it allowed him to enjoy sex more.
“Using the female condom wasn’t easy at first because I was used to the male condom,” Mzimkhule remembers. “After about four months, I started enjoying sex much more because I was safe from HIV re-infection and other sexually transmitted infections.”
People living with HIV should use condoms to prevent being re-infected with the virus from their partners. Contracting additional strains of HIV may complicate antiretroviral treatment for those living with the virus and lead to drug resistance.