Only three out of every 10 men in Kenya are correctly and consistently using condoms as a HIV prevention strategy, a new study has revealed.
But even with worrying figures, Kenya is the leading country in East Africa on the usage scale, followed by Tanzania at 16 per cent and Uganda at 15.3 per cent. In Rwanda, only one in every 10 men (14.9 per cent) used condoms in 2020.
The findings, released during the fourth virtual HIV Research for Prevention Conference convened by the International Aids Society, revealed that many couples are having unprotected intercourse. As the world celebrates World Condom Day today, experts are worried that most countries in Africa will not meet the UNAIDS condom use targets of 95 per cent coverage by 2030.
To mark the day, Homa Bay County health department distributed about 100,000 free condoms to residents in a partnership with Aids Healthcare Foundation (AHF).
HIV infection rates
Homa Bay is among counties leading in HIV infection rates in Kenya and the condoms are expected to protect thousands this Valentine’s weekend.
Homa Bay County Aids and STI and Deputy Coordinator Justus Ocholla and AHF Western Region Prevention Programme Coordinator Penninah Manda said HIV led a team of health volunteers in creating public awareness on HIV prevention and the use of condoms by distributing the commodity to boda-boda riders and fish mongers in the region.
“New HIV infections are mostly among youth aged 16 to 35. They are very sexually active and most of them do not go for tests so they end up getting infected because of failure to take precautionary measures,” said Mr Ocholla yesterday.
This year’s global theme is “Safer is Sexy”.
Use of condoms
In Kenya, condoms are used both as a family planning method and for prophylaxis. However, gender-related fears, cultural and religious beliefs, amongst others, hinder their adoption.
Purchase or use of condoms, for instance, is associated with illicit sex in Kenya, particularly when females are the ones buying or recommending them.
Many men also believe that condoms inhibit sexual pleasure, while others believe they have side effects after use.
Mr Edwin Akach, a chemist attendant, says both men and women find it hard to purchase condoms.
“They use coded names like ‘gumboots’, ‘socks’, ‘umbrella’ and ‘polythene’,” says Mr Akach.
Dr Dismas Okech, a HIV researcher at Maseno University’s School of Medicine, said that contrary to the stigma that surrounds the purchase of condoms, knowledge on proper use is not always adequate.
Shortage of the commodity also contributes to the low usage numbers.
“Some Kenyans depend on the government to provide free condoms in health facilities. When they do not find them they opt not to use them because they do not want to spend money on the commodities,” Dr Okech said.
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