Some AIDS workers in Liberia say the way to stem the country's HIV rate is to urge women to wear female condoms. But others argue the female condom is impractical, and broader HIV/AIDS education is needed.
As a health worker at an HIV/AIDS clinic in Monrovia, Salome Yargomah says she sometimes stands outside her clinic and tries to distribute female condoms for free. She says many of the women refuse to take the condoms, often because they do not know how to use them.
"Some of them have never seen it," Yargomah said. "So I think we need to educate a lot of people. The condoms are available. But some people are just maybe not giving them out. Or a lot of promo has not been made of it. Because I know that we've got female condoms here and we've been trying to give them out to some women."
A recent Liberia Demographic and Health Survey concluded that Liberia's HIV rate stands at 1.5 percent among the general population. But prevalence is slightly higher among women, than men. Women retain a 1.8 percent infection rate, while 1.2 percent of men have HIV.
Yargomah says the higher infection rate among women is partially due to their refusal to wear the female condom.
"Take for instance if a man says to you, 'I'm not using it,' a woman should have the right to insert a female condom that will allow her to have safe sex and she's not going to be at risk," she added.
But many Liberian women say the female condoms are impractical. Twenty-seven-year old Milta Snowe says she will never wear one.
I hope another strategy will be put in place to fight HIV, but in my view, the female condom is an unfriendly method," said Snowe.
As Executive Director for Liberia Anti Aids Organization, Larry Sando disagreed that the spread of HIV is due to women's failure to wear female condoms.
"I don't think it's because most of the women have not decided to use the female condom is the reason for which HIV is being transmitted from one person to another," Sando said. "What I think it's the lack of education and of this disease could be one of the reasons for which HIV is being transmitted."
Experts from the Liberia Demographic and Health Survey warn that Liberia needs to increase the intensity and coverage of HIV prevention and care efforts to avert an epidemic like those that have occurred in other parts of the continent.