Rwanda: Male Contraceptive Pill Underway – What a Twitter Poll Tells Us

If you have doubts about contraception being perceived as a ‘women’s issue,’ go to the nearest health centre and see the queue of people waiting at doors marked “contraception” to be served. The only male people you may find there are babies crying on their mothers’ backs.

But earlier this year, a team of scientists announced they had developed an oral male contraceptive pill that is 99 per cent effective in mice without causing side effects, and that it could enter human trials by the end of this year, AFP wrote.

Scientists argue that if successful, this pill will not only distribute contraceptive responsibilities more equitably; it will also increase options for men who currently rely on condoms and vasectomies.

Nevertheless, it is also worthy to note that doubts are high to make the target consumers, men, take it, given how they are hesitant about the already available options.

While already existing male contraceptives are effective, they cannot be fully relied on. For instance, although male condoms are 98 per cent effective, faults increase the risk of breakage, slippage or other condom failures.

According to an article by American broadcaster, NBC News; “Condom use 101: Basic errors are so common, study finds,” they reported that in various studies, between 0.8 per cent and 40.7 per cent of participants reported the experience of a malfunctioning condom, and that in others, the rates of sex with a broken condom were as high as 32.8 per cent.

Furthermore, 13.1 per cent and 19.3 per cent of participants reported condom slippage, while condoms leaked in between 0.4 per cent and 6.5 per cent of sexual encounters studied, with 7.6 per cent of men and 12.5 per cent of women reporting an experience with a leaky condom.

Different other studies have also shown that while vasectomies have a high success rate, reversing the surgical procedure can be difficult, and expensive, but even only for cases where it is possible.

According to a 2020 report by FHI 360, a non-profit human development organization, married men in Rwanda were 1,693,730, with almost all of them; 1,152,869, having a desire to limit future births.

However, only 3,872 of them have had a vasectomy, because of reasons like little to no sensitization, according to 39-year-old Karekezi (not real name), a resident of Kigali.

He is married and already has two children, but his wife is the one using contraception.

“When a woman gives birth, the hospital will ask her what method they would like to use for birth control; they even encourage them. But they don’t approach men and tell them about vasectomy,” Karekezi said.

He also noted that the “graveside effects” of vasectomy make him not want to take it. “I have also never met someone who has had a vasectomy,” he added.

You may think the ‘pill’ news would sweep Karekezi and people with the same fears off their feet, but no it doesn’t!

“I am not sure how safe it is, so I don’t want to be among the first people to try it out. I don’t want it to affect my sex performance,” Karekezi said.

He is, however, not on the same page with 24-year-old Habimana (not real name) who can’t wait to use the pill. He usually uses condoms, but he too eyes the pills, because it would reduce the burden of contraception on women.

“I think it would be better if men were also more involved in contraception,” Habimana said.

In a Twitter poll by The New Times asking if men would take the pill if it made it to the market, in 24 hours, 186 people had responded. 49 per cent of them said they would take it, 31 per cent said they wouldn’t, and 19 per cent said they are not sure.

According to Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC)’s officer in charge of reproductive health, Joel Serucaca, men are generally hesitant when it comes to contraception.

“The common contraceptive here in Rwanda is the male condoms. Yes, I think the pill will add value to male contraception, but there is a long way to go. Many men think it’s not their business; understanding it will be slowly by slowly,” Serucaca said.

A male contraceptive pill, if approved, should have high relevance in Rwanda where annual 295,000 pregnancies are unintended and 84,300 of them end up in abortion, whose law is also restrictive.

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