Intravaginal practices (IVP) are the introduction of products inside the vagina for hygienic, health, or sexuality reasons. The influence of men and Alengizis, traditional marriage counselors for girls, in promoting IVP has not been explored. We conducted gender-concordant focus groups and key informant interviews with Alengizis. The responses were conducted grouped into three themes: (1) cultural norms, (2) types and reasons for IVP, and (3) health consequences. We found that IVP were used by all participants in our sample and were taught from generation to generation by friends, relatives, or Alengizis. The reasons for women to engage in IVP were hygienic, though men expect women to engage in IVP to enhance sexual pleasure. Approximately 40% of women are aware that IVP can facilitate genital infections, but felt they would not feel clean discontinuing IVP. All men were unaware of the vaginal damage caused by IVP, and were concerned about the loss of sexual pleasure if women discontinued IVP. Despite the health risks of IVP, IVP continue to be widespread in Zambia and an integral component of hygiene and sexuality. The frequency of IVP mandates exploration into methods to decrease or ameliorate their use as an essential component of HIV prevention.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
- Infectious Diseases