After Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa presented the Max Condom in Parliament last week – a newish brand of government-issued condoms, which come in a variety of flavours and are designed to be less noisy – we went out to find what people thought about the national “birds and the bees” conversation.
What do you think about the new Choice Max condom?
“I like the apple flavour. I think it’s brilliant. I like the humour in them. If you’re going to give these things to the young masses they must be trendy. That was real advertising for real people.” – Dr Web Blaine, physicist
“This is just another marketing strategy for the government. It’s just about branding. I’ve seen those condoms around. They have been around for a while now.” – Lerato Sekele, performer
“I have a problem with the name, I like the idea of choice. Max is a man’s name. I don’t know whether it’s sexist deliberately or accidently.” – Sally Pooler, architect
“We forget that condoms are incredibly important. We have new HIV infections weekly. The reason why the statistics are through the roof is because 70% of men don’t test. Part of the problem is the power dynamic when it comes to condom negotiation because the guy has to put the damn thing on. Tampons and pads are important – but so too are condoms.” – Namlha Xaba, student
What did you think of Choice condoms before the upgrade?
“Everyone could see it was cheap quality” – Lerato Sekele
“The old Choice condom was proven to be quite safe. They could make them ribbed or studded but all-in-all I’ve always thought Choice condoms were just fine.” – Namhla Xaba
“They were functional but they lacked class and style.” – Dr Web Blaine
“Was the announcement about safety or was it about a matter that we know the government hasn’t addressed effectively? Will glossing that with a sexy product make the government look good?” – Sinenhle Mgoma, performer
Is the decision to upgrade Choice condoms one of national priority?
“Without a shadow of a doubt. The moment we hear ‘HIV’ we just want to close our ears. The crisis is not going away because we have not prioritised it as a national agenda. After the post-1994 Nkosi Johnson era we all had HIV fatigue. It’s not going to go away. HIV is definitely part of our lives.” – Namhla Xaba
“Don’t we have a whole Ministry of Health with nurses and social workers who have been doing the work?” – Sinehle Mgoma
“There are bigger priorities chief. I would like to have free sanitary pads every month. What happened to free health care? Some women have to pay government hospitals to give birth.” – Lerato Sekele.
“A single mother of any colour is at the bottom of the social heap. I know what it’s like to have a 14-year-old daughter fall pregnant and the ongoing problems with that unwanted child.” – Dr Web Blaine.
Do you think that young people will be encouraged to use condoms now that they are flavoured and make less awkward noises?
“Young people like flesh to flesh and that’s the truth. Some of us use contraceptives. And that doesn’t mean anything because I can still get HIV from my partner. I don’t know what he does in other spaces or outside our relationship” – Lerato Sekele.
“Whether people use condoms or not has to do with intimacy and sex. We know that the condom disappears after two months, that’s the nature of relationships. Make testing a part of the routine. If it ends up as a positive result, then it’s not the end of the world. There is no need for HIV to be spreading the way that it is.” – Namhla Xaba
“You should use condoms in many ways. You should use them for balloons at parties which will destigmatise them. You just fill them up with helium. I used to put two on in my youth because it stops you from having an orgasm too early. You’re very sensitive at that age.” – Dr Web Blaine
How appropriate was the parliamentary announcement of the condoms?
“It was a presentation issue. They are lollipop flavours that come in different colours. And it’s called Max. That’s poor branding. It did nothing to convey the gravitas, it actually cheapens it. Is it really that difficult to sell the product differently?”- Sally Pooler
“It’s not important to me but I think it will help those people who are affected by the issues of HIV and AIDS. Maybe they had a parent or grandparent affected by this disease and they want to make sure that they are protected against it.” – Owen Rathipal, student
“The issues about procreation and sex are all issues that should be discussed and demystified at every level.” – Sally Pooler
“It was a phallic demonstration at a time when a lot of people needed a lot of answers. The conversation has to happen. Even if it was a scapegoat on the part of the government, they chose an important one.” – Namhla Xaba
“That announcement about condoms could have been made elsewhere. I laughed when I saw that clip.” – Lerato Sekele
“They couldn’t have gotten Zuma to do it. He is a laughing stock on the matters of woman’s rights and sexual health.” – Nicola Irving, architect