The nationwide condom shortage crisis topped the agenda as Mount Kenya University in Thika played host to the national celebration of International Condoms Day.
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 pandemic, the shortage of condoms has made it difficult for individuals to access this crucial form of protection.
The Government, in a recent statement said it was procuring 150 million pieces of condoms. This falls far short of a forecasted demand of 262 million for the July 2022 to June 2023 financial year. There is a gap of about 112 million condoms, which translates to a budgetary hole of about Ksh38 million, at a unit cost of approximately Ksh3.4 per condom.
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.
AIDs Healthcare Foundation Country Director, Dr. Samuel Kinyanjui in Thika cautioned that the cost of providing and distributing condoms is much lower than the cost of treating people with HIV and other STIs. Statistically, he noted; with enough condoms, the country will be saved from treating more than 800,000 newly infected persons in the next ten years and up to 5.3 million unplanned pregnancies, 60% of which are teenage, will be averted.
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 so that organizations that are willing to step in and help the country restock can freely do so,” he said.
Kenya has one of the highest rates of HIV in the world, with approximately 1.4 million people living with the virus. In addition, an estimated 51 percent of all new HIV infections in Kenya are among adolescents and youth. This highlights the ongoing importance of HIV prevention efforts, including the promotion of safe sex practices, especially during this valentine season.
The national celebration of International Condoms Day was organized by Civil society organizations in the health sector in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and the County Government of Kiambu. The event was aimed at raising awareness about the critical role of condoms in the fight against the rising number of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), unwanted pregnancies, and HIV in the country.