By Emeka Nze
Kenya is currently hit by shortage of condoms, and this development is coming on the heals of rising demand ahead of end of year festivities.
According to a civil society that has petitioned the government to end the condom shortage that is facing all the counties, failure to supply more condoms may further worsen the rising cases of HIIDs.
The civil group said its countrywide spot check on public health facilities, offices, hotels and restaurants has confirmed the acute shortage of condoms.
According to the group, this is the first time that the country is in the grip of countrywide shortage of condoms amid rising cases of teenage pregnancies.
AIDS Healthcare Foundation Kenya (AHF Kenya) County Programme Director Dr Samuel Kinyanjui has said the government is procuring 150 pieces of condoms against a forecasted 262 million for the July 2022 to June 2023 financial year.
Dr Kinyajui said that if the government does not come up with immediate solution, more Kenyans are at risk of contracting HIV/Aids, as well as other Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) during the festive season.
“Kenya risks rolling back the gains made in fighting HIV/AIDs if the issue of condom shortage in the country is not addressed,” Dr Kinyanjui said.
According to Dr Kinyajui, a packet of condom that normally retails at Sh30 is now being sold for Sh100.
“Our greatest concern is areas where we know have high chances of HIV prevalence like counties is the Lake region – Kisumu, Siaya, Homa Bay, Migori – and now extending to Kakamega and Bungoma. We have lots of tourists headed to Mombasa, Kwale, Kilifi and we know that the areas are always of high activities. We all know about Vasha (Naivasha), and most people are planning to go to Naivasha this festive season in Nakuru City and Nairobi. Those are very high risk counties and therefore without condoms we are looking at very serious problems,” Dr Kinyajui said.
According to Dr Kinyanjui, what has partly contributed to the shortage of condoms is the heavy taxation of the commodity, bearing in mind the country mostly relies on free condoms programmes from donors.
“Up to 75 percent 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 by World Bank and IMF, hence indications of reducing donor funding has been experienced over the past few years,” he said.
The civil group said currently, the tax being slapped on condom procurements is shilling for a shilling, a situation they said needs to be addressed by the political leadership.
“Why do we have to tax the commodities donated free of charge? Going down this road will only wreak havoc on a country that is unable to fund its health system. We should decide whether we want condoms or taxes because once the donors withdraw, then we are doomed,” Dr Kinyajui said.
Even as the search for HIV vaccines microbicides gains momentum, the lobby group said condoms remain the core preventive measure for many Kenyans.
Media Issues also gathered that rising cases of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases are on the rise.
Ahead of the World Aids Day, which will be marked on December 1st, the lobby group said there is an urgent need for targeted interventions to help Kenyans to access the commodity.
Speaking during the event, AIDs Healthcare Foundation Kenya Youth Ambassador Ferdinand Omanyala said Aids is the leading cause of death among the youth, hence the need to address the shortage.
“Aids is the leading cause of death and morbidity among adolescents and young people in Kenya. Need I emphasise that the male latex condom remain the single, most efficient, available technology to reduce HIV and other sexually transmitted infections,” Omanyala said.
The country will mark this year’s World Aids Day in Bungoma County.