The National Aids Control Organisation (NACO) in 2013-14 distributed only 15.3 crore condoms against the target of 36 crore. The figures are especially worrying because there has been a nearly 40 per cent decline in condom usage in India since 2006-07, thereby increasing chances of people contracting HIV/AIDS. The lack of willingness to use condoms as well as their poor distribution threatens the campaign against HIV/AIDS and population explosion in the country.
NACO's condom distribution scheme targets members of the lower-income groups such as labourers, sex workers and eunuchs as they are more vulnerable to contracting sexually transmitted diseases. About 30 per cent of migrants in the 15-29 age group are highly vulnerable to unsafe sex which could result in them being infected with HIV/AIDs.
“Condom usage is extremely important not only for preventing diseases like HIV/AIDS, but also for controlling population explosion. Failing to meet the target of condom distribution and that too by more than half the number is worrisome. Free condoms are mainly for labourers and other people who may or may not spend money on contraceptives. Unfortunately, the number is huge.
Not meeting the target means these people could have unsafe sex which may result in another HIV infection or an unwanted child who would be deprived of a good future,” said a health expert.
According to statistics released by the health ministry in October 2013, condom usage in India has dropped by 38 per cent in six years – from 2.6 crore in 2006-07 to 1.6 crore in 2010. The sharpest decline was seen in Chhattisgarh (from 6.9 lakh condoms used in 2006-07 to 1.4 lakh in 2010-11), Kerala (1.5 lakh to 75,808) and Karnataka (3.06 lakh to 2.06 lakh) in the six-year period. Delhi saw the number dip from 1.71 lakh to 90,227. However, these statistics do not include the number of free condoms distributed.
“The numbers are really surprising because the government claims it has done a lot for transgenders. The majority of the people in the community are sex workers and most of them are forced to have unsafe sex,” said Rudrani Chettri, trustee, Mitr Trust, an organisation which works for transgenders.
Other condom-related initiatives by NACO have also failed. A CAG report released in October last year reveals that of the 22,000 condom-vending machines installed across the country, 10,000 went missing and 1,100 were not working. NACO had invested Rs21 crore in these machines.