In an interview, Dr Kapambwe, who is head of Cervical Cancer Prevention Programme in Zambia, said women’s private parts had the capability of cleaning themselves without getting any help.
“The vagina is also a very sterile environment. It’s like a garden that has good bacteria that protects someone. So when a woman starts cleaning in the vagina, it means that you disturb the way that garden is associated or the way the environment in the vagina is, which is protective to you and that’s when people start introducing, you know women always talk about thrush, vaginal candidiasis because they are disturbing the PH inside the vagina,” she said. “Our advice is that you should leave it alone, it will clean itself. You just clean outside, that is all that is important but never to get fingers, no herbs, no cloth, No! Nothing should be in there.”
Dr Kapambwe said her team had been working with traditional counsellors – the alangizis and nachimbusas in Lusaka and other areas – to discuss the ‘healthy vagina’ and what should be done to discourage some practices that had been going on such as encouraging women to clean the inside of their womanhood.
“…because once you clean inside, the normal mucus that the woman produces on a daily basis is removed and that protects you during sexual intercourse because when a woman is excited, she is going to produce those fluids. It protects you from getting traumatised and injured during sex. That means when you have all the bruising going on, infections and viruses like HPV human papiloma virus and HIV can easily get in. So, having dry sex is discouraged for the same reason because you are leaving the area easily to be injured during intercourse or any other things you are using and promoting exchange of germs,” she said.
Dr Kapambwe said there might be some miscommunication and conceptions that men like dry sex.
“I have had some discussions or in workshops where the men are and sometimes the men say they think the women want dry sex. So sometimes it’s just a miscommunication or you perceive that a man is happy with dry sex. Of course there are some who will encourage dry sex. I think what needs to happen is that we need to encourage that sex should be wet. That’s when a woman is protected from either acquiring infections or getting injured during sex; so male involvement should be key,” she said.
Dr Kapambwe said there had been too much concentration on women getting all the information leaving out the men.
“I totally agree that it’s about time we started bringing men on board on various issues that concern women. It should not just be about cervical cancer. It should be issues of family planning, circumcision anything that is going to disturb a home, a man should be involved. Just because they don’t get cervical cancer does not mean they don’t get affected by cervical cancer,” said Dr Kapambwe.
The Centre for Infectious Diseases Research in Zambia (CIDRZ) Cervical Cancer Prevention programme is being implemented in conjunction with the University Teaching Hospital (UTH) and the Ministry of Health.