The origins of St Valentine’s Day are derived from countless versions of the many Christian St Valentines, all martyred.
One Valentine was a bishop, who saw the agony of young lovers, met them in secret places, and joined them in marriage.
Valentine’s Day has thus become a lovers’ festival, also observed in some Muslim countries, and characterised by deliveries of a dozen roses, red and pink clothing, and giggling recipients of ‘surprise’ chocolate, perfume, and cuddly toy gifts in the daytime and when night falls, couples get to wining and dining.
While florists and restaurants experience prominent peaks in business, sexual health advocates also get more vocal reminding lovers that they do not need STIs or unplanned pregnancies for Valentine’s. A National Condom and STI Awareness Day coincides with Valentine’s Day in America, Australia and South Africa, where information on STIs and condoms are made available for free.
Locally, however, HIV/AIDS organisations focus on testing and couple-based activities during February. The Chobe District Multi Sectoral Committee has recognised February as the month of love and are holding activities that promote partner reduction, and inspire women to use the Bliss female condom in partnership with Tebelopele, BNYC, DHT, YOHO and PSI International.
Minki Bokole, who is ACHAP’s Programme Officer for Chobe District, says, “We have employed Village Condom Focal persons based in clinics. There, however, has not been an uptake on the Bliss female condom.”
“We have then decided to promote Bliss between the 4th and 22nd of February. Some women have an irritable reaction to the latex used for male condoms, and the female condom, which is made of polyurethane, may be considered as an option.”
Bokole also says using the female condom will be a way for women to assert themselves in their relationships.
On the 15th and 16th, a seminar for married couples and single parents will be held by the Ministers Fraternal that will look at the family as a foundation for children’s development.
Valentine’s Day will be marked by a couples’ dinner and the 22nd of February, a couples’ pageant that is meant to encourage multiple partner reduction, couples of all ages are encouraged to join to recount their love for each other.
Meanwhile in Gaborone, while get flooded with orders of dozens and dozens of roses, many would probably be pleased to find that condom sales also rise during lovers season.
“We experience a peak of 20% in condom sales around Valentines,” said Mr Rowhani of Riverwalk Pharmacy.
Ms Thuli Tabane of Molapo Pharmacy also concurred, “We tend to get a 15% rise in condom sales during Valentine’s. However, these purchases are mostly by a male clientele.”