A new study by the social marketing organization DKT Ethiopia finds that Emergency Contraceptive consumption is on the rise. Commonly known as Post Pills, they are taken in the immediate hours after having unprotected sexual intercourse to prevent unplanned pregnancy. The study indicates that over a five year period between 2007 and 2012 their use increased by 382 Pct. In 2007, there were only 12,432 pills in circulation but this number grew to a record high of 1.58 million in 2012, according to the DKT study. The country spent more than USD29 million to import the pills in 2012 alone.
DKT distributes the post pills to local drug stores and clinics for a retail price of ETB420 per box and ETB7 per pack. These outlets sell it for ETB10 a pack.
“The Ministry of Health (MoH) does not encourage the use of these pills; we advise people only to use them as backups at times of emergency,” says Sintayehu Abebe, focal person for the National Family Planning Program and assistant director of Urban Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Directorate. Prior to 2007, these pills were primarily funded by foreign partners; however the Ministry began using money from its own coffers to import contraceptives because it wanted to support the family planning programs.
The growing consumption of Post Pills could mean more people are having unsafe sex. Surprisingly however, the rate of HIV infections has been decreasing, the prevalence rate standing at 1.5 Pct for 2011 nationwide, showing only a 0.1 Pct increment in six years. Sintayehu hypothesizes that Post Pills are being taken by people in committed relationships or used alongside condoms.
“Because my work is risky, I use the Post Pill every time I have sex, even if I use condoms,” said a commercial sex worker the DKT quotes in its study.
However, repeated usage can have negative health consequences. “The side effects from the amount of progesterone consumed in the Post Pill are ten times worse than other contraceptives,” said an expert at MoH. Other than stomach pain and diarrhea, more serious side effects include intestinal irritation, damage to the Uterus, skin allergies and cancer.
DKT has sold more than one billion condoms in the country since it started operation in 1990, according to its official website.