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New initiative to raise condom use

Our Bureau

New Delhi , June 30

CONDOMS, the effective weapon to fight HIV/AIDS and keep population in check, have witnessed a decline in sales. A unique public-private partnership between the Health Ministry, ICICI Bank and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) aims to increase usage of condoms by making them easily available.

The initiative has been developed after ORG studies indicated that in urban North India condom sales have declined in the last three years. From 305 million units sold in 2001-02, sales fell to 275 million units in 2003-04. This has happened despite various localised efforts to improve usage of condoms.

Studies conducted by USAID indicates that 83 per cent of the condom users obtain the product from the private sector and about 190 brands and variants are available in the marketplace. "The price is affordable ranging between 70 paise to Rs 5 per piece and 89 per cent of the chemists stock the products," said Dr Rita Leavell, India Representative, Commercial Market Strategies (CMS). However, the choice available to a consumer at a chemist is restricted to just two-three brands and only 20 per cent of the fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) outlets store the products.

The Dual Protection Condom Programme, launched on Wednesday, aims at promoting the usage of condoms for protection from sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS and unwanted pregnancy.

The project is initially being implemented in Uttar Pradesh, Uttranchal, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Delhi, Punjab and Haryana.

The programme will roll out an extensive multi-media awareness campaign, increase the marketing focus and begin consumer outreach activities to create demand. "We aim to reach out to at least 20,000 new outlets this year," said Mr P.K Hota, Secretary (Family Welfare), Health Ministry.

Corporates such as Hindustan Latex Ltd, JK Ansell Ltd and TTK-LIG will also be part of the movement while advertising agency, Lowe India has created a new commercial `Condom: Yahi hai Sahi'.

Condoms at ATMs!

THE next time you go to withdraw some cash at the nearest ATM, you may just be able to buy condoms. ICICI Bank, which is investing Rs 7.1 crore in the Condom Programme, is looking at such a possibility.

Officials of the bank indicated that trials are being conducted for creating packs containing a single or two condoms. "We are still in the trial stage where we are trying to get the pack size right. Only after that will we know whether it will be feasible to use the ATM network or not," said an official.

Another official added that issues related to availability of space and need for regulatory approvals for dispensing other products at the ATM centres would have to be looked into.

ICICI Bank has been involved in promoting oral contraception pills and oral rehydration salts and has spent over Rs 30 crore in the last few years on such initiatives.

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