The Star (Nairobi)

Kenya: Battle Against Family Planning Myths, HIV-Aids in Coast

Photo: Cindy Shiner/AllAfrica
A medical worker at a clinic counsels a patient on family planning.

The National Council for Population and Development regional co-ordinator Sammy Tanui said the Coast has a paltry 30 per cent usage of the modern family planning methods. North Eastern has the lowest with four per cent.

Tanui attributes this to myths and misconceptions about family planning. He said the problem is compounded by the fact that information dissemination in the region is poor.

Considering that most sexually active individuals are at risk of contracting HIV/Aids, programmes to curb it are being rolled out in the region.

Aids HealthCare Foundation Kenya, an international NGO, has started testing partners and family members of HIV positive people registered at their clinics, with the aim of encouraging more people to know their HIV status by taking testing services to their homes too. Some of the patients' partners and families do not know their HIV status.

"We are encouraging our patients to allow us take HIV testing closer to their families by conducting family testing. This exercise is being done by first sensitising the HIV positive people on the importance of their partners and families knowing their HIV status. After this, then consent is sought for HIV testing," AHF programme manager Faith Ndung'u said.

The project has already started at Mtongwe clinic. It aims at testing people who might be exposed to HIV, and linking those who turn HIV positive to health facilities for care and treatment services.

While releasing the report, Tanui said this is a ticking time bomb given the current three per cent annual population growth rate. Coast has about 3.3 million people according to the last census in 2009.

Central region on the other hand competes favourably with the developed world in use of the modern methods of family planning. "We have two major programmes for the treatment and prevention efforts to ensure we treat HIV people from opportunistic infections; this we do free of charge in our clinics," she said.

Ndung'u said after testing, they refer the clients to their health facilities - Mikindani Municipal and Mtongwe Municipal Clinic in South Coast. Some residents who were interviewed said they are happy to receive the services.

"We are collaborating with the Municipal Council of Mombasa and the National Aids Control Council on the programme. Our condoms are branded, tested and recognised even internationally," Ndungu said.

She revealed that they will be donating what she termed as 'posh' condom dispensers, made from clear plastic, to the municipal council to be placed in public areas.

"This is to ensure we have condoms every single day, and are able to sustain the demand. People are sceptical about the 'plain' condoms offered by the government for some reasons; ours are more appealing," she said.

Ndung'u said AHF is targeting the 34 million people in Kenya who have not yet been tested. About 1.6 million people in Kenya are living with HIV virus, out of the six million who have already been tested.

AHF is an international not for profit NGO whose headquarters is in Los Angeles, USA. It has a branch in Kenya and was registered as an NGO under the Kenya NGO Act in September 2009.

It is currently involved in HIV/Aids prevention, treatment and care programmes in four sites namely Mtongwe and Mikindani in Mombasa county, Kithutuni and Emali Satellite Clinic in Makueni county.

"The current number of patients on care and treatment in all the four sites are 2,196 patients and those on ARVs are 1,104 as at the end of August 2012. More than 10,000 people have been tested and more than 100,000 condoms distributed since January 2012," Ndung'u said.

According to AHF Kenya, each person should know their HIV status in order to make informed decisions on health, that is, how to protect themselves from HIV if positive or how to live positively. Testing is the only entry point to care and treatment to people who are HIV positive.

"People who are HIV positive should be encouraged to go to hospital. This will enable medical practitioners enrol them for comprehensive care clinic," she said.

Tanui revealed that Central province is leading in use of modern family planning methods with 67 per cent. NCPD deputy director Karugu Ngatia attributed this to the high awareness and literacy rates in the region. "Women in Central are more empowered than women in other regions," said Ngatia.

Ngatia said, generally, the family size in Central is less than the country's ideal family size according to the last Kenya Demographic and Health Survey conducted in 2008/2009. The ideal family size in Kenya is four children while in Central most families have three children.

The International Centre for Reproductive Health deputy country director Nzioki Kingola said in Central region, many men have undergone vasectomy, which is supported by their wives.

"In Central, the community-based programmes on family planning started a long time ago. The women were educated on the same and they passed the information to other women on a door-to-door basis," said Kingola.

One of the strategies being used by AHF to create awareness is to take part in trade fares like the ASK shows countrywide, with the Mombasa one held in August having been the first, where they conduct free testing and free condom distribution and counselling.

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InFocus

Kenya Battles Skepticism Against Family Planning

A medical worker at a clinic counsels a patient on family planning.

Myths and misconceptions have been blamed for the low numbers of modern contraceptive usage along the coast, according to Sammy Tanui, the National Council for Population and ... Read more »