Vietnamese students are now able to buy condoms with subsidies, according a local family planning official.
Nguyen Van Tan, deputy general director of the General Office for Population and Family Planning, said condoms are subsidized and cost only over VND1,000 (US$0.04) for the most expensive piece, so students can easily buy the product.
“Previously, the product was distributed for free but receivers had to leave their name on record,” he said.
“However, now condoms are quite cheap so they should buy them,” he added. “Parents should also change their mind and feel happy if they find condoms in their children’s pockets.”
According to Tan, that is a good signal showing that their children know how to prevent risks through safe sex.
In recent times, sex education has made headlines in the country after an undergraduate couple in northern Vietnam was admitted to a hospital with scratched and bleeding genitalia.
The two earlier used a plastic bag as protection when having their first sexual intercourse, as they felt too shy to buy a real condom.
25 percent feel shy when buying condoms
In Vietnam, buying condoms has remained a taboo to young people, because of the tradition of not having sex before marriage.
A recent survey on 2,700 students from six colleges in Hanoi showed that twenty-five percent admitted they felt embarrassed to buy condoms.
Two national surveys on adolescents in 2005 and 2010 also pointed out that the age at which Vietnamese have their first sexual intercourse has fallen by more than one year, with the average being 18.
However, the real age could be younger as many youths did not tell the truth about their first sexual experience.
Doctor Nguyen Thu Giang from the non-profit Institute for Community Health Development LIGHT in Hanoi said young people have had more knowledge about sex than 10 or 15 years ago.
However, accidents like the ‘plastic bag protection’ have still happened due to the barriers in people’s mindset and the lack of knowledge of proper sex education.
The doctor recalled a case when a girl got pregnant as her boyfriend failed after five times coming to different pharmacies to buy condoms.
“Once he felt shy as the pharmacist was a young girl, while another time he met an old pharmacist who looked at him as if he’s doing something embarrassing,” she said.
“Generally, young people have more knowledge now but they still blush because of the condom sellers and themselves.”
If such barriers could be lifted, unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases could be prevented, Dr. Giang said.
According to her, one of the most common problems that many young people have shared is that they are afraid to talk about using condoms.
As a result, most have their first sexual intercourse without any protection, or use emergency contraceptives later.
However, not all lovebirds know how to use the pills.
Doctor Le Thi Kim Dung from the Thai Ha Medical Center in Hanoi remembered a case in which a 20-year-oldd girl came to her center with severe vaginal infection three months ago.
The reason was shocking.
Earlier, she placed a piece of cotton soaked in lemon juice in her vagina for contraception since she thought the juice could kill sperm.
The piece of cotton was later stuck inside after sex and caused infection.
Dung said a few girls also use vinegar and lemon juice to wash their vaginas, which is not contraceptive but can cause infection.
Such a method cannot prevent sexually transmitted diseases, she added.
Speaking to Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper, Nguyen Van Tan, deputy general director of the General Office for Population and Family Planning, said his agency has plans to install condom vending machines in industrial parks and export processing zones.
According to him, teams of guards will also be tasked with protecting the machines from sabotage.