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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 February 2005, 09:30 GMT
Zimbabweans make condom bangles
By Steve Vickers
BBC, Harare

Woman wearing condom bangles
Donors are upset at the misuse of the condoms
In Zimbabwe, enterprising traders are making money by turning female condoms into brightly-coloured bangles.

The rubber rings are removed from the condoms and made into fashion items.

Although it is profitable for the vendors, those involved in the distribution of the heavily-subsidised condoms want to end the practice.

One shopper in central Harare said: "They're pretty. I used to wear them until I discovered they were made from condoms. Then I threw them away."

Alfred, who also sells watches, batteries and necklaces, sells a packet of three bangles for Z$10,000 (US$2).

"We get them for free from hospitals and clinics. Then we cut the plastic off, just leaving the band, which we repaint in bright colours - pink, yellow, red."

The government makes condoms available free of charge at health centres throughout the country as part of the fight against HIV/ Aids.

An estimated 25% of adult Zimbabweans are HIV positive.

Zimbabwe is one of the leading users of female condoms in southern Africa, using almost one million every year.

Concerned

Aid agency Population Services International (PSI) distributes subsidised female condoms to pharmacies and hair salons, where they cost around two US cents each.

PSI's Yasmin Madan says the female condoms are more expensive to make than male condoms and so there is pressure from donors to ensure they are used properly.

"When we hear such stories, we do get concerned and we act straight away," she said.

The business of turning female condoms into fashion accessories may die down soon, but whatever the rights and wrongs, it certainly shows that Zimbabweans are creative and resourceful people.


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