In desperate situations, high-risk sexual behaviour may increase, giving rise to an increase in sexually transmitted infections. Except for HIV, most of these are curable and manageable, although their consequences can be severe, including greater susceptibility to HIV. Condoms is a critical element in a comprehensive, effective and sustainable approach to HIV prevention and treatment.
The vast majority of HIV infections are sexually transmitted. Condoms are the surest way to arm crisis-affected populations with dual protection against sexually transmitted infection and unwanted pregnancy. But condoms may become unavailable when health facilities are destroyed, supply lines are cut off or people become displaced.
Because many people in a crisis or refugee situation will be destitute, it is essential that condoms are free and readily available to those who seek them. Condom provision must be accompanied by campaigns to raise awareness of their effectiveness in preventing sexually transmitted infection, their correct use, and where to obtain them.
UNFPA is the largest international supplier of condoms, and works with local and international partners to make free condoms available in crisis settings around the world. UNFPA also works with UNHCR, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, to supply male and female condoms to refugees and internally displaced persons in more than 20 countries.
Sexually transmitted infections – such as gonorrhoea, syphilis, and chlamydia – are among the most common illnesses in conflict and displacement settings. Having an STI greatly increases the risk of HIV infection, making STI treatment an important part of HIV prevention.
Early establishment of STI management, including condom provision, must be a priority as health services are restored. Female health workers and people trained to work with adolescents should also be available so women and young people feel comfortable seeking assistance.
UNFPA supports the prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted infections through the provision of condoms, drugs and other supplies, and by supporting the training of health care providers. Health workers are trained to recognize and diagnose symptoms, provide effective and confidential treatment, and conduct outreach and information campaigns, including notification and treatment of partners.