ZIMBABWEANS are snapping up millions of free condoms every month but it’s got little to do with safe sex: they are using them to ease the pain of arthritis.
Elderly Zimbabweans claim that rubbing a condom on arthritic joints brings relief.
The belief has led to reports of cash-strapped pensioners flocking to health clinics to get free handouts.
Health worker Betty Chitsiga from the Murambinda district claimed the demand from the elderly was so great that she was running out of condoms.
Ms Chitsiga said: “I actually run out of the condoms which we collect for free. There is a general belief that the lubricant in the condoms helps to ease pain for those suffering from arthritis and those with joint problems.”
Lucy Gondongwe, a doctor at Harare Hospital, said there was no scientific evidence to support the claims that the lubricant in condoms cures arthritis.
But with expensive arthritis drug regimes out of reach for many in Zimbabwe, pensioners are grabbing this alternative remedy with both hands.
A year after President Robert Mugabe claimed victory in elections, Zimbabwe is experiencing a liquidity squeeze, mounting job losses and company closures. Reports of this creative use of condoms are unlikely to please HIV/Aids workers who are struggling to get couples to use male and female condoms.
Though Zimbabwe’s rate of HIV infection has dropped in the last 16 years, from more than 20 per cent in 1998 to a current rate of 14 per cent, it remains one of the highest in the world. For some months there have been suspicions that liberal condom distribution isn’t as effective as it may have first appeared.