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A young man's story: Running out of condoms under a COVID-19 lockdown in South Africa

Sipho Shezi*, 24, who co-habits with his girlfriend, faces a tough decision as the COVID-19 lockdown gets extended and he realises he is running out of condoms

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa—“We sat patiently watching as President [Cyril] Ramaphosa announced that the 21-day nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of the deadly novel coronavirus would be extended by an additional two weeks to the end of April. My immediate response was dread, as it had been 15 days since South Africa had been on a nationwide lockdown situation and this meant yet another period of uncertainty!

My girlfriend and I had decided to cohabit at my place in the centre of Johannesburg when the nationwide lockdown started.

“My girlfriend, a 19-year-old student at a nearby university, and I had decided to cohabit at my place in the centre of Johannesburg when the nationwide lockdown started on 26 March. We thought spending time together would strengthen our bond. As a freelancer, work keeps me busy and her studies keep her busy. We had romantic notions of cooking together, binge watching Netflix and other movie streaming sites, playing board games and exercising together. However, as the extension of the lockdown was announced, reality hit and brought to light the challenges that would need to be addressed as the coronavirus ravished the country.  

“Although the lockdown has brought us closer together as a couple, it has equally put a strain on us as individuals. As a young person who is freelancing, my savings can only sustain us so far and I am worried that we will run out of food. In addition, as a sexually active couple, we use dual protection against sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancies. However, my girlfriend accesses her contraceptives on campus at the university medical centre, which is now closed under the regulations. The condoms we had stocked up on before the lockdown are about to finish, and I think by the time this story is shared they would have run out.

We have spoken about going to the nearest clinic but my girlfriend fears being infected with COVID-19 because of the amount of exposure we may have.

“We have spoken about going to the nearest clinic but my girlfriend fears being infected with COVID-19 because of the amount of exposure we may have. For instance, it would mean using public transport in the form of a taxi and being in a public health facility, as the virus continues to spread. I am not going to lie - we are totally scared of the virus!

“We would rather be locked up safely. We have now decided to abstain from sex until we can access more condoms and she can get her contraceptives. It's going to be tough but I love my girlfriend and we are definitely not ready for a child. She needs to graduate and I need to push my freelance career to gain further skills and become employable.

“I just wanted to encourage young people out there to be careful about the sexual decisions they make. This too shall pass, so let’s think about the future!”

*Not his real name.