Zimbabwean hairdressers are the latest to join the fight against HIV with their services of counseling and giving out condoms to their clients. They have been recruited as part of an innovative program to reduce HIV infection, with a Ģ20m grant from the British government. This donation is expected to aid in the funding of a five-year campaign to reduce new infections by increasing testing and encouraging safer sex.
The British government's policy of withholding funds from President Robert Mugabe's government has caused the grant to go to the non-governmental group Population Services International (PSI) that also receives funds from the US. With this grant the campaign will be aided in the increase of its condom sales from 160m to 250m.
Over 1,000 hairdressers have received training on advising their clients about sexual matters as well as in the sale of male and female condoms. Yasmin Madan, of PSI in Harare said, "The salons are conductive environments where women can feel free to speak about HIV-related issues. Our hairdressers are very enthusiastic about the positive social role they can play."
Last year over half of all female condoms were distributed through the network of 700 beauty salons in low-income areas. Since 2001 the demand in Zimbabwe for female condoms has increased by 240%. Zimbabwe is one of the few countries with a successful female condom program.
It also has one of the world's highest HIV rates, with one in five adults estimated to be infected. 80% of these have been found to be unaware of their status. One of the primary aims of this campaign is to provide testing and counseling for some 800,000 people. In addition it offers support groups for those who test positive.