In a country where people still shy away from uttering the word "sex" in public, social stigma has been known to stop them from buying condom as well. That condoms make up just 5 percent of the contraceptive market in India proves that.
However, it seems that anonymity is helping, as reportedly 10 lakh condoms were ordered in just 69 days since the opening of Free Condom Store in India.
The AIDS Healthcare Foundation launched the free store on April 28, and its data shows it has delivered 9.56 lakh condoms for free. Around 5.14 lakh were requested by communities and NGOs, but the remaining (4.41 lakh) were ordered by individuals. The demand from individuals was high in Delhi and Karnataka.
Dr V Sam Prasad, the foundation's India programme director, said it was quite surprised by the response.
He told the Times of India: "We thought the stock of 10 lakh condoms would suffice until December, but we ran out by the first week of July. We have ordered another 20 lakh which we will receive in the last week of November and orders for another 50 lakh have been placed for January."
According to experts, this surprising response from people shows social stigma is still a big issue in India. It proves people are embarrassed to walk into a store and ask for a product related to sex.
One of the experts said: "That the delivery person does not know what's in the package, and those who take the order don't see the person placing the order."
This way, the awkwardness otherwise associated with the purchase or taking it from a volunteer goes away.
The contraceptive industry agrees. A spokesperson from Reckitt Benckiser, makers of Durex, said: "The sexual wellness category faces different challenges in different cultures. A developed market like the UK has condom category penetration of 30 percent while in India that number is only 5 percent."
He added: "The biggest challenge in India is the taboo around sex, which presents a barrier to creating awareness or even physical access."
Currently, India has the third-highest number of HIV-positive people in the world, with 2.1 million living with the infection in the country, as per the UNAIDS Gap Report 2016.
Yet, according to National Family Health Survey, only 5.6 percent of those surveyed used condoms for birth control. Unfortunately, even in progressive states like Karnataka, the use is limited to only 1.7 percent. In Bengaluru, it's just 3.6 percent, which is a very poor number when compared to cities like Kolkata and Delhi, where the use is 19 percent and 10 percent, respectively
A number of firms are launching innovative awareness campaigns, and rebranding and redesigning packages to promote condom use. The Centre and various state governments are also trying to achieve the same thing.
National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) data shows an increase in condom usage among sex workers and other high-risk groups, but the organisation believes there's still a long way to go.