Second-hand underwear causes infections

HARARE - While business is bustling deep in the heart of Harare’s central business centre as upmarket stores sell top side lingerie, the majority of shoppers flock to various second-hand markets to buy their various clothing items.
At flea markets, they jostle and shove each other as touts in “high voltage” voices shout to attract potential customers.

“Bra rako $1 panty rako pano $1 for two, mhanya richangovhurwa, dzichangosvika. Vistoria’s Secret tinayo pano! Mitengo yedu yakarohwa nechando. Bhero rakooo! (We’ve got your bras for $1, panties $1 for two, just in. Victoria’s Secret, very low prices),” the tout shouts.

At most flea markets you find sellers, direct users both low and medium income earners. On offer are all types of second-hand underwear for men, women and children.

Miranda Nharadada, a University of Zimbabwe student said buying second-hand underwear gives her the opportunity of buying quality outfits at lower prices.

“These things are the real deal, I can feel like a million bucks after buying something for fifty cents,” she said.
Most boutiques around town sell bras for $5, while pants range from $3 to $7. Others who serve clients with deeper pockets charge as much as $40 for one bra.

Other customers complained of strange substances on the undergarments, and some suggested the traders should hire dry cleaning services then charge a little extra for the service.

“There is this yellowish substance on some of the undies, it is a huge turnoff. No matter how sexy the undies are, this substance is just gross and unforgivable and they need to take these things for dry cleaning first,” said a young woman who only identified herself as Peggy.

Despite the demand and stampede surrounding the business, health experts have warned of the dangers of buying second-hand underwear.

Most customers admitted they knew there were health risks involved, but confessed the price overshadowed the health hazards.

“Yes, I know there are health implications but I cannot afford to buy new undergarments in the regular boutiques, these

“bend down” boutiques give me the opportunity to wear good quality underwear and I do not even have to pay much.

“Besides, after I wash and wear the panty who will know where I bought it? Second-hand undergarments are a blessing to poor people like me,” said another local college student.

While government banned the importation of second-hand underwear, the trade continues to thrive through the country’s porous borders as traders smuggle their wares into the country.

However, medical studies have raised the alarm over the risk that these used items pose. The studies show that bacteria, fungi, parasitic and viral infections can be contracted through wearing of second- hand clothes.

According to these studies, sexually transmitted diseases are not only contracted through sexual relationship with infected persons, but also through sharing undergarments.

Infections such as virginal and skin candidiasis, scabies, tinea corporis, chicken pox, gonorrhoea, syphilis, and even Hepatitis A, B and C, among others, can be linked to wearing underwear previously used by infected persons.

A consultant dermatologist, Sandra Savanhu told Eyeshot the risk of infection is heightened where users fail to wash, properly disinfect and iron these undergarments.

She said though the harsh economic realities might make it difficult to ban the sale and use of second-hand underwear, there should be proper awareness on handling and using them.

“The handling from the source is very important. If the undergarments are not properly stored but are bundled together, they may become mouldy and fungal.

“If in turn the person who buys them does not wash and iron before wearing them, he will be at risk of picking any infection that the previous user had,” she said.

However, a consultant health educator who operates from Baines Hospital said people should entirely avoid used underwear because of the health risks.

He said some bacteria is very resistant and can survive harsh conditions for long periods on clothes.

He said that a regular wash may not get rid of some of the bacteria, especially those that come with discharge from the body of the previous user.

The health educator also said strong reagents are sometimes needed to get rid of them, stressing that such clothes must be ironed so that the heat can kill the eggs, where present.

“It is true that there are great risks in using second-hand underclothes. STIs are the most likely ones. This practice should be discouraged in the interest of healthy living,” said the consultant who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

    Comments (1)

    Is this the freedom we fought for? 34 years down the line we are buying something that is used by the person we fought and chased. What an irony.

    Gwenaz - 20 July 2014

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