Now, gays can play safe

By: Alisha Coelho              Date:   2010-07-31              Place: Mumbai

First-of-its kind ‘gay’ condom to hit Indian markets soon, after NACO raises concern about rising HIV infections among homosexuals

Source : MiD DAY

By: Alisha Coelho              Date:   2010-07-31              Place: Mumbai

First-of-its kind ‘gay’ condom to hit Indian markets soon, after NACO raises concern about rising HIV infections among homosexuals

It’s legal and now it can be safe as well. On July 2, homosexuals across the country celebrated a year of freedom – a year since the Delhi High Court struck down Sec 377 and decriminalised homosexuality. And soon they will have another reason to smile.

One of India’s leading condom manufacturers is planning to introduce condoms, which will especially cater to this emerging consumer group. As more and more homosexuals have come out of the closet, the community is seeing a surge in HIV infections. And this condom is what they exactly need.

The condom manufacturer’s Family Planning Promotion Trust along with National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) flagged off a one-year study in April to analyse the problems faced by the high-risk men who have sex with men (MSM) group in Mumbai and Pune.

More lubrication
A preliminary feedback indicates that discomfort was one of the major reasons why same sex couples do not use condoms during intercourse. Since most condoms are suited for vaginal and not anal sex, the new ‘gay condom’ will contain extra lubrication.  

“We are still in the process of developing the product. As far as the costing goes, we are still unsure if it must be sold in the socially marketed category or in genera one. However, this concern is secondary to product development,” said an executive from the company’s family planning trust, requesting anonymity. The new condom will be called Spice Up.

The study
According to data available with NACO, there are currently more than 19,000 people in Mumbai and Pune from MSM category, who have come out. The study will be closely looking at sexual habits of 9,900 in this group.
“We want to bring about a behavioural change in the habits of these men, which is difficult because they are a closed group and do not respond well to advice from outsiders. We have, therefore, roped in some peer leaders to carry our message across and hope this will work,” said the executive.

The medical fraternity feels condoms for homosexuals will be a hit with the community.   “This product will be welcomed by homosexual men as well as couples who engage in anal sex. Sometimes during lovemaking, the lubricating gets messy and anal sex can get painful. A condom with extra lubrication will bring securities to such couples,” said sexologist Dr Prakash Kothari.          

However, few like Jasmir Thakur of the Sambhavana Trust, that works with male sex workers, feel that the product is irrelevant, especially if its socially marketed.   “When it comes to socially marketed condoms, most of the male sex workers we work with throw them out because there is a common perception that what comes free may not be good. As long as condoms are easily accessible and people know how to use them, it hardly matter what new varieties are available in the market,” said Thakur.

–  Indian Council of Medical Research will soon come up with a condom which will benefit gays as well as straight couples. Citing reason for introducing a dual condom, an ICMR official said in April, “The high percentage of HIV and AIDS cases is mostly due to practise of anal sex and the present condom does not give protection.”
–  If a blog site is to be believed, a leading international condom manufacturer is planning to launch exclusive condoms for Indian gays. The site claims that that these condoms differ from the ‘straight’ condoms in aesthetics and components. However, the content of this blog could not be verified.    

HIV infection rising among msm:  UN report
The prevalence of HIV among the MSM group is rising in India, according to a recently published United Nations report. According to recent estimates of MSM, India has 30.5 million such people. The prevalence of HIV among MSM in Delhi is 49 per cent and 42 per cent in Mumbai. Projections indicated that that close to half of all new HIV infections occurring annually in Asia as a whole will be among MSM by 2020, unless prevention programmes are scaled up.

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