- County Committee on HIV-Aids says only 40 per cent of adults engage in protected sex
Officials in Lamu have decried the non-use of condoms, saying it was hampering the fight against the spread of HIV-Aids.
HIV-Aids prevalence has risen in the last few years, but no amount of coercing can make residents use condoms during sex, the county public health office says.
They are also not willing to go for testing to know their HIV status.
Condoms have been distributed and some placed at strategic points, including the sea fron and at the huduma centre but only a handful are used.
According to the county committee on HIV-Aids, only 40 percent of residents engage in protected sex with the remaining 60 per cent preferring no protection.
Lamu HIV-Aids coordinator Haji Shibu said out of every 100 people in Lamu, three were HIV positive. He said the prevalence rate has gone up threefold in the last five years.
According to the 2009 census, Lamu has a population of 101,539 people.
Out of these, some 2,600 people are living with the virus.
Mpeketoni, Hindi and Amu divisions are among those leading in HIV prevalence and new infections.
“People don’t want to use condoms during sex despite efforts to ensure we provide them at every possible and confidentially accessible location. There is nowhere we haven’t installed a dispenser. They are all over but every time we check, just a few are used. It’s the reason the region has a high prevalence rate,” Shibu said.
Lamu's three per cent prevalence rate is below the national average of 4.9 per cent.
Lamu's HIV prevalence rate stood at 1.6 per cent in 2015, rising to 2.6 per cent in 2017 before hitting three per cent last year.
Shibu said they distributed 15,000 condoms during the last 12 months but only 300 were used. He blamed the situation, partly, to religious beliefs among Muslims where condom use is regarded as immoral.
He said the committee was conducting awareness campaigns to encourage safe sex among adults.
“Most of those living with HIV fall between the ages of 15 and 49. Infections among younger children are low. We know the issue of condoms has religious backgrounds to blame especially for us Muslims. It’s not something that looks or sounds good but people must know its necessary,” Shibu said.
He said many people don’t want to establish their HIV status partly because of the stigma against those perceived to be positive.
He urged locals to visit VCT centres and know their status to make informed health decisions.
edited by peter obuya