How condom shortage is affecting fight against new HIV infections

AIDS Healthcare Foundation says Kenyans need at least 400 million condoms annually.

In Summary
  • The government is on pace to distribute only 150 million.
  • "As a country, we may harvest very painful outcomes in the next few years as a result of condom shortage."
Some male and female condoms on display
Some male and female condoms on display
Image: FILE

Stakeholders are raising concerns over the prolonged shortage of free condoms in the country.

They say the lack of protection is affecting the fight against new HIV infections with teenagers the most affected.

The shortage has been caused by shrinking donor funding and taxes imposed by the government on donated medical commodities.

AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) Kenya Country Director Samwel Kinyanjui says the shortage has contributed to increased STIs and unplanned pregnancies, especially among teenagers.

"As a country, we may harvest very painful outcomes in the next few years as a result of condom shortage," Kinyanjui told The Star.

AHF on its website says Kenyans need at least 400 million condoms annually yet the government is on pace to distribute only 150 million.

According to Kenya 2023 HIV estimates by the National Syndemic Diseases Control Council (NSDCC), the country has made significant milestones in the fight against HIV since 2010.

HIV prevalence was at 6.4 per cent in 2010. 71,154 new infections were recorded in the same period.

The estimates indicate that adolescents aged 10-19 account for 62 per cent of new HIV infections and 23 HIV-related deaths that occur every week.

"The year 2022 was the first time over the last seven years we saw new HIV infections increase in the country compared to the previous years where the cases have been going down,’’ Kinyanjui stated.

The World AIDS Day report 2022 showed that the country recorded an increase in new HIV infections for the first time in a decade with more than 2,000 cases from 32,025 to 34,540.

The report attributed the increase to the constant new HIV infections among children, adolescents and young people.

The Executive Director of the Network Empowerment of People Living with AIDS in Kenya (NEPHAK) Nelson Otuoma admits to the current condom shortage saying without protection, new HIV infections are expected to increase.

"We don’t know what we are going to do with people who cannot afford condoms and they have been relying on free provision of condom services from the government,’’ Otuoma said.

National HIV Youth Prevention Ambassador Bernard Baridi said the government has a duty to provide free health commodities including condoms to everyone especially at the community level to be able to address this pandemic.

"Right now if you go to health facilities you’ll find that there are no condoms. You cannot talk about health without talking about STIs," Baridi said.

Despite these concerns raised by the stakeholders, Health CS Susan Nakhumicha early this year moved to dispel fears of condom shortage stating that the government has an ample supply of the commodity.

"We have challenges on how these condoms reach mwananchi and it is because of the process. A health facility has to request condoms’’, Nakhumicha stated during a press conference.

The State is currently pushing for a Triple Threat Initiative that aims at building resilient and sustainable platforms for the prevention of new HIV infections, sexual and gender-based violence and pregnancies among adolescents.

The campaign is also targeting at creating an enabling environment to facilitate access to treatment, care, mental health and justice for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence, pregnant children and those living with HIV.

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