INTERVIEW: World Contraception Day: Nigerians should carry condoms like sanitary pads, shaving sticks

DKT International Nigeria, supplier and distributor of Kiss and Fiesta condoms in the country, says with 80 million packs of its condom brands sold annually in Nigeria, there is yet no optimum use considering the huge population of sexually active Nigerians. Towards marking the 2021 World Contraception Day, PREMIUM TIMES’ MEDINAT KANABE interviewed the company’s country director, Dimos Sakellaridis.

In, this interview, he discusses the impact of COVID-19 lockdown on condom distribution on in Nigeria, impact of advertisement policies on awareness campaigns, and how the group is helping to beat insecurity in the hard-to-reach parts of the country towards addressing issues related to family planning. Excerpts:

PT: What is the reliability rate of condoms?

Sakellaridis: If it is worn well, it is 100 per cent reliable but I recommend married couples without other sex partners should use other contraceptive methods so that they don’t have to use condoms every time and these other methods are 99.5 per cent reliable.

If it is against STDs, I will say that again if the condom is used properly, it is over 99.9 per cent except if it is broken and pulls out during sex and this can only happen if it isn’t worn correctly or the person has used a wrong lubricant. Lubricants must be water-based and not petroleum jelly-based.

PT: But some people believe condom don’t give full satisfaction like “skin to skin.” Your view?

Sakellaridis: The danger of getting a disease is greater than the pleasure of skin to skin sex. They have to weigh the benefits and the consequences. One has to make compromises sometimes but condoms are not like they used to be. Now they are very durable and can even add to the foreplay and the pleasure because there are a lot of variants and designs these days. A lot of times, the belief is stuck in the minds of these people. They need to come over it and explore the different variants and add fun to their sex life. This can only be done through education and advertising so that condoms become part of our lives.

As a woman goes around with a sanitary pad and men carry shaving sticks, condoms should also be available anytime. But to change this mentality, we need to be allowed to advertise.

PT: What is the acceptability rate of female condoms in Nigeria?

Sakellaridis: It is zero per cent. They are not available and not accessible except through the public sector but I don’t think women go to the public hospitals to get the female condoms. The thing with the female condoms is that they are not easy to use. They are mostly given for free but they are not really used as we don’t have many requests for it.

DKT launched another product that can be used by women but only when they want and this is called the Caya Diaphragm. It is a barrier method and it prevents pregnancy. It doesn’t prevent STDs or STIs. It is a product that we have been promoting for a couple of years now and we see that it is also a matter of education.

Once they know how to insert and use it, the acceptability is high. It is inserted before intercourse and removed after intercourse. She doesn’t feel it and her partner doesn’t know that there is something there so you still have the skin to skin feeling but there is a pregnancy prevention method there as well which is what we want to achieve.

PT: What misconceptions have you heard about condoms?

Sakellaridis: The one that we all know is that it stops the continuity between foreplay and intercourse because one has to stop to put it on and continue. But to me it can be part of the foreplay especially if they are using the Fiesta Condoms with so many flavours, aromas, textures and sizes.

The men also say that it does not suit the heat of the moment but at the end of the day, we have to look at the other benefits because if one contracts any deadly disease he or she will find himself or herself in a devastating situation and it will also affect those around them.

PT: Does your company produce condoms in Nigeria?

Sakellaridis: No, condoms are not produced in Nigeria. I don’t think there is any factory in Africa producing condoms. We import condoms from Malaysia and Thailand and these two are the top manufacturing facilities in the world. They produce billions of condoms and they are near the raw materials and the know-how and they have invested millions of dollars in getting the right equipment.

Condoms used to illustrate the story

They are experts in the production of condoms and they do so in such a big volume that they can offer extremely low prices. Even in Europe and the United States of America I don’t think there are condom factories and I don’t think they can compete with these other countries.

PT: Are jobs being created in Nigeria through condom production and supply?

Sakellaridis: At DKT, we have over 250 employees and most of them are in the field. We employ doctors, pharmacists, biochemists as medical sales representatives and hospital executives. We have specialists who train healthcare providers in administering family planning products. We have a full-blown marketing department, we have supply logistics warehouses all over Nigeria and these all started about 8 years ago when I came to Nigeria to launch DKT.

PT: How were you able to distribute your products during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown?

Sakellaridis: We have over 150 representatives and they are mobile. They also have a lot of stock. Also, during the COVID-19 lockdown, our team continued to work following all the COVID-19 protocols. We distributed a lot of face masks and sanitisers so that they can continue to work.

We also got a letter from the Federal Ministry of Health allowing us to continue our work because we are distributing family planning products and some other life-saving equipment. It was in the interest of public health and it was the ministry’s objectives that DKT continued to work during the COVID-19.

We only had very minor challenges but we continued our work. A lot of shops were closed down but because we distribute to over 100,000 retail outlets directly and they keep stock, none of them ran out of stock during the pandemic.

Because we were anticipating a disruption in the supply chain, DKT also placed large orders with our suppliers and made sure that in our warehouse we had enough goods that lasted three months.

There were also minor disruptions at the port. We had containers that stayed for more than three months before we could clear them but DKT International funded every additional expense so that we didn’t increase prices of our products.

PT: What strategies have you put in place to help reach such conflict areas?

Sakellaridis:, For those areas we are more concerned about providing information about child spacing through radio advertisement; radio still remains the most popular media in Nigeria especially in those parts of the country.

We have developed radio advertisements where we talk about the benefits of child spacing giving real life scenarios in Hausa language. Then we try to refer them to our Honey Banana Connect call centre on 55059 for free. Women can call and obtain information on the various types of family planning and our call agents will refer them to a nearby partner clinic where they can go and get family planning services at a very affordable rate.

We also know that there are a lot of women who will not be able to accept the family planning even though it is very cost-effective so DKT will provide those couples and women cost-free through our e-voucher campaigns so we will be giving them vouchers that they will go and redeem at our partner clinics.

The call centre is already three years old. Once a woman calls, we get her information and brief her about all the available family planning methods. The good thing is that a woman can choose what goes well with her body, lifestyle, needs and health as well.

If she is interested, we refer her to a nearby clinic amongst the over 500 hospitals we are working with in Nigeria. We book the appointment for her, follow up with the clinic and ensure that she is attended to without wasting her time. We don’t want her sitting for hours waiting to be attended to and if it is someone that wants privacy she will get it as well, especially non-married ladies.

We have trained our clinic staff to be very friendly and never embarrass a woman because we have realised that 50 per cent of the population in Nigeria are young people and many of them are sexually active and want to prevent pregnancy. We can’t tell them not to engage in sexual activities because they already have and it is beyond us so once a woman has received the service we follow her up for one year. We call her every month to know if she is doing fine. We are the only company doing this type of check-up in the world right now and if she has any complications we will look into it.

PT: What is the number of condoms DKT distributes in Nigeria yearly?

Sakellaridis: At DKT, we have two brands- Kiss and Fiesta condoms. Every year, we distribute about 80 million condoms, but generally in Nigeria, the usage of condoms is not optimal. Based on the population and sexual interaction the country has, in a year, the volume should be much higher.

We don’t think it is a matter of accessibility or availability because we distribute everywhere in Nigeria and we do that through our distribution network.

The good news is that if you buy kiss N100 in Lagos, you will get it at the same price in Yola, but we are still far from it. But with the social media marketing that we are doing now, we hope to achieve the expected number.

PT: What is your view on why the usage of condoms in Nigeria is not optimal?

Sakellaridis: Some of the reasons are tradition, religion and also the conservative nature of the typical Nigerian man towards public purchase of something like the condom.

It is the duty of DKT to educate the people to know that condoms are not only there to prevent some sexually transmitted diseases, STDs but also for the prevention of pregnancy and to ensure that both the man and woman are sure of themselves.

We do a lot of campaigns on social media but when it comes to advertising, there are certain restrictions.
We are not allowed to advertise during the day but after 9 or 10 p.m. in the night. This is restricting the educational efforts that we and some other organisations are trying to do. That is one area that we want the government to look into because if we advertise during the night not many people will get the message.

We know some developing countries where these restrictions have been removed and it has really helped to increase the usage of condoms.

PT: How do you introduce yourself and your kind of business?

Sakellaridis: It is very funny because even when I go to my country, people ask what I do in Africa and I say, I sell condoms. They laugh, but condom is a product that every sexually active person should be using especially those who have multiple sex partners. Of course, married people can use it for pregnancy prevention as well as other family planning methods. Sometimes when I introduce myself, I say I work for DKT, I am the country director and I am also known as the King of Condoms because we are the number one in Nigeria. At the same time one of our brands- Fiesta, has 14 variants so we get to make it fun and bring out the excitement in the usage of condoms.

We are trying to make people feel like condoms is not an obstacle during sex but part of the fun. This is why we have made our brand of “Kiss” very affordable where you can now buy three pieces for N100.

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