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EXPERIMENT IN ETHIOPIA: Charging consumers for condoms instead of handing them out for free

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
6/29/2014 (3 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Use of prophylactics promoted in nation with the second-highest population on African continent

Getting prophylactics, or condoms into the hands of Ethiopian men is seen as a way to halt the spread of HIV and encourage family planning in the second most populous nation on the African continent. The largest supplier of such condoms here, DKT International, offers them for as little as 10 cents for three. The company is now selling an "upscale" version of the condom for $1.10 that comes in its own steel case. The rationale behind this tactic is highly interesting -

It's a unique quandary: pricing condoms just like any other product, or to treat them as potential lifesavers that should be available free to anyone, anywhere, anytime.

It's a unique quandary: pricing condoms just like any other product, or to treat them as potential lifesavers that should be available free to anyone, anywhere, anytime.

Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
6/29/2014 (3 years ago)

Published in Africa

Keywords: DKT, condoms, Ethiopia, HIV, pregnancy


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The new brand, called Members Only, is not subsidized at all and is notably aimed upmarket. Hiking up the price of a commodity seen as a vital tool in fighting a global epidemic would appear unsuccessful.

The tactic opens a wider discussion in development circles; whether putting a price on things, rather than giving supplies away, increases their eventual use by intended consumers.

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As DKT attempts to move from a subsidized model to a self-sustainable one, the Members Only condom was released in an attempt to get a clearer picture of what consumers might be willing to pay. The effort is being undercut by the relentless supply of free condoms pouring into the country from the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID and the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR.

It's a unique quandary: pricing condoms just like any other product, or to treat them as potential lifesavers that should be available free to anyone, anywhere, anytime.

DKT has about 40 million condoms stacked in its main Addis Ababa warehouse, from which it annually distributes more than 60 million. Meanwhile, USAID plans to procure up to 35 million free condoms for Ethiopia in 2015. Promoting condom use in a developing country is very complex.

USAID says targeted distribution of free condoms, combined with health promotions, can actually create some demand to purchase condoms for cash.

"We support market segmentation, but there is a limit to what we can expect people to pay for, given the financial situation," Keith Hummel, commodities and logistics adviser for USAID in Ethiopia. Twenty-nine percent of Ethiopians still live in absolute poverty, subsisting on less than $2 a day.

As a result of free condoms, DKT has seen its market share slide from about 70 percent in 2009 to 30 percent currently. The goal of creating a sustainable business, and a sustainable condom supply, is harder than previously realized.

The use of condoms in Ethiopia seems to have worked in helping stem the spread of HIV. The infection rate in Ethiopia is relatively low, at about 1.3 percent. Yet disease prevention is not the only benefit.

Ethiopians have become much more aware of condoms during the past five years. Most Ethiopian women are too ashamed to buy or collect them. It's the men who are expected to have them at the ready, health officials say.

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