Kenya risks rolling back the gains made in HIV/AIDS response in the country if the issue of condòm shortage in the country is not addressed, the Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in the health sector have cautioned. Over the years, HIV and AIDS prevalence has decreased from a peak of 10.5 percent to a low of 5 percent in recent years.
Total new HIV įnfections are estimated to have declined in the last seven years; from about 116,000 in 2009 to around 45,000. CSOs cautioned of a possibility of a new wave of infectįons citing a budgetary gap in the purchase of condòms. They noted that the Kenyan Government was procuring 150 million pieces against a forecasted demand of 262 million for July 2022 to June 2023 financial year.
They noted that this was not the first time Kenya is in the grip of dire countrywide shortage of condòms amid rising cases of teenage pregnancy, HIV/Aids among the youth and a resurgence of sęxually transmitted illnesses. The CSOs noted that there has been a rapid increase in HIV infectįons among adolescents and young people and the disruption of the HIV prevention, care, and treatment services by Covid-19.
Speaking ahead of the commemoration of World AIDS Day, Dr Samuel Kinyanjui, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) Kenya Country Director noted there is a gap of about 112 million condòms, which translates to a budgetary hole of about Ksh38 million, at a unit cost of approximately Ksh3.4 per còndom.
“We are urging the government to come up with a mechanism of stemming the acute shortage of condòms that has now become routine. We are calling on the government to come up with modalities of bringing down the prevailing high taxes against those willing to step in and help the country restock,” said Dr Kinyanjui.
Dr Kinyanjui also emphasised that condòms must be viewed as an investment and not a cost.
“Statistically, with enough condòms, the country will be saved from treating more than 800,000 newly infected persons in the next ten years and up to 5.3 million unplanned pregnancies, 60% of which are teenage, will be averted,” he said, adding that the cost of treating one infected person every year is about Ksh30,000, and this can be avoided.
A spot check of many public health facilities, offices, hotels, and restaurants confirms they have had no condòms in their dispensers for a prolonged period. What has partly occasioned this shortage is the heavy taxation of the commodity in a country where free condòm programmes are mainly donor-funded.
Currently, the aggregate tax regime slapped on condòm procurements is Shilling for a shilling.
“Why do we have to tax commodities donated free of charge? Going down this road will only wreak havòc in a country that is unable to fund our health system. We should decide whether we want condòms or taxes because once the donors withdraw, then we are doomed,” said Dr Kinyanjui.
Up to 75% of funds for HIV, TB, and malaria programmes come from donors. This situation is, unfortunately, changing since Kenya is now ranked as a middle-Income country by the World Bank and IMF, hence indications of reducing donor funding has been experienced over the past few years.
AIDS is the leading cause of dęath and morbidity among adolescents and young people in Kenya. It is estimated that 51 percent of all new HIV infectįons in Kenya are among adolescents and youth.
“Need I emphasize that the male latex condòm remains the single, most efficient, available technology to reduce HIV and other sęxually transmitted infectįons,” said Dr Ferdinand Omanyala, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation Kenya Youth Ambassador.
As the search for more preventive technologies such as HIV vaccines and microbicides gathers pace, condòms remain the core preventive measure for many Kenyans.
Prevention remains the mainstay of the response to HIV/AIDS. United Nations Population Fund posits that condòms are an integral and essential part of comprehensive prevention and care programmes, and their promotion must be accelerated. The agency has in the past advocated for the universal availability of condòms, either free or at low cost, and promoted in a way that helps overcome social and personal obstacles to their use.
“It’s not over,” said Jerop Limo, Executive Director, Ambassador for Youth and Adolescent Rep Health Programme (AYARHEP) in her bid to remind world leaders, global public health institutions, and civil society that much work remains if we are to one day end the AIDS epidemic. Reports indicate that the world is worryingly off-track in reducing new infection and mortality rates.