Dr Samuel Kinyanjui, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) Country Director, has called on the Kenya Government to adopt policies that will make condoms more affordable and accessible to help reduce the rising cases of sexually transmitted diseases among young adults.
He spoke at a time when the country faces the surge of a new strain of multi-drug resistant super gonorrhea and rising cases of HIV infection among the young people. Dr Kinyanjui cautioned that a person living with HIV/AIDS will cost the government an estimated Ksh25,000 annually, while the government’s investment in the availability of condoms to prevent HIV infection will cost the government only Ksh1,200 per person.
Kenya is currently facing a severe shortage of condoms, putting the sexual health and HIV prevention efforts of citizens at risk. Despite being one of the countries hardest hit by the HIV/AIDS scourge, Mr Stanley Ngara, commonly known as the “King of Condoms,” said the country currently needs “about 480 million condoms annually, while the government is providing an estimated 250 million condoms per year.”
The government, in a recent statement said it was procuring 150 million pieces
Dr Kinyanjui also decried the high taxes slapped on condom procurements, including a 16% VAT, affecting the price of available condoms. “Currently condoms in Kenya are being taxed because they are categorized as a medical device. We are urging the policy makers and regulators to categorize condoms as a medical supply so that they can be tax free,” he said.
Condoms offer triple defense, he noted, especially among teenagers and the youth – prevention against HIV infection, unwanted pregnancies, and protection against other STIs. “We are talking about 90% protection as opposed to other alternatives such post-exposure prophylaxis (PEPs); which involves taking taking medicine to prevent HIV after a possible exposure,” he said.
Dr Kinyanjui was speaking during a series of events that AHF Kenya has organised in Nairobi, Thika, Kisii and Kilifi as part of its condom use advocacy campaign among the youth. This comes against a backdrop of the Health Cabinet Secretary Susan Nakhumicha advocating for abstinence as the foremost HIV infection prevention method for young adults, with condom use as the second.
Towards the end of last year, the National Aids Control Council (NACC) noted that adolescents and young people aged 29 years and below accounted for over 61 per cent of all new HIV infections in the country.
Factors such as supply chain disruptions, increased demand, and the rise of counterfeit products have made the situation even more critical. Equally, the declaration of Kenya as a middle-income country by the World Bank and IMF has seen donors withdraw their much-needed support.