In India, when a man buys a condom across the counter, the retailer/chemist will think: "This man is going to have sex, he does not have a good character, and he will disrupt my business, as other customers will get put off."
And three out of every 10 people around him will assume that, post-purchase, the man will visit a sex worker. But the good news is this 'perception' was worse earlier: in 2004, 46 per cent of onlookers would have thought likewise.
These findings are part of the three-year Condom Bindaas Bol campaign, a joint effort between health tracker PSP-One, USAID, ICICI Bank and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. The campaign has just concluded, and the baseline (early 2004) and end line (early 2007) results were shared exclusively with HT.
While 'consistent use of condoms with spouse (among married men)' has increased by 12 percentage points, from 32 per cent to 44 per cent, usage among men who have non-regular partners has gone up from 75 per cent to 80 per cent.
The campaign was conducted across eight states — Delhi, Rajasthan, UP, Uttranchal, MP, Chhattisgarh, Bihar and Jharkhand — that account for 45 per cent of the 1.6 billion units condom market in India. Bindaas Bol's thrust was attitudinal: "We steered clear of family planning and AIDS, and focused on 'being in control'," Anand Sinha, country director, PSP-One, said. "For retailers/chemists, our pitch was condoms should be sold like soaps, and there should be no embarrassment."
Ramakrishnan Ganesan, the campaign's programme director, said many retailers converted the 'Bindaas' tag into placards and displayed them prominently. And several women were spotted buying condoms.