Kenya: HIV Testing and Condom Use - Kenya Off Track

(file photo).
29 January 2021

Kenya is ranked top in East Africa on usage of condoms as an HIV prevention strategy but rates poorly on the continent, a study new shows.

The findings of the study were released on Wednesday during the fourth HIV Research for Prevention virtual conference.

During the conference, which was convened by the International Aids Society, it was revealed that last year, condom usage in the country stood at 21.4 per cent, followed by Tanzania at 16 per cent.

Uganda was third at 15.3 per cent, followed by Rwanda at 14.9 per cent.

The data indicates that, out of 10 men that were in need of condoms last year, only two could access them.

On HIV testing, Uganda leads in East Africa at 81 per cent, followed by Kenya at 76 per cent, Tanzania 70 per cent while in Rwanda it stands at 62.5 per cent.

It is predicted that by 2030, the numbers will increase by 91 per cent in Uganda, Kenya (86 per cent), Tanzania (79 per cent) and Rwanda (79 per cent).

An analysis of data from 38 African countries, which included 1.4 million sexually active adults aged between 15 and 49, predicts that few, if any, are on track to reach key UNAIDS targets for HIV testing and condom use by 2030.

In Africa, Kenya is ranked among the last 10 of the 38 countries that were involved in the study.

The researchers predict that most African countries will not meet the UNAIDS testing and condom use target of 95 per cent coverage by 2030.

Countries with the highest annual HIV testing rate in 2030 will be Eswatini at 92.6 per cent, Lesotho at 91 per cent and Uganda at 91 per cent, while those with the highest rate of condom use will be Eswatini at 85 per cent, Lesotho at 76 per cent and Namibia at 76 per cent.

The study, titled "Progress toward HIV elimination goals: Trends in and projections of treatment as prevention strategy in 38 African countries," revealed that with the low HIV testing and condom usage, it will be very difficult for most countries to attain the HIV elimination goal.

The study, presented by Phuong Nguyen of St Luke's International University, concluded that the probability of reaching the 2030 targets is very low for both HIV testing (28.5 per cent) and condom use (12.1 per cent).

"To achieve HIV elimination in our countries, we must consider behaviour change in how we respond to condom usage. African countries are doing badly yet the condom is one of the best ways to stay safe," Dr Nguyen said.

The study further concludes that HIV/Aids elimination calls for "more attention to funding and expanding testing and treatment" in Africa.

Dr Dismas Okech, a researcher on HIV at Maseno University School of Medicine, said providing condoms to Kenyans and encouraging discussions on sexually transmitted infections and how consistent condom use can prevent HIV infection among young people is important.

"Discussing condoms is a taboo to some in the country. This is why most people shy away from buying and even asking for condoms when they are in need. These are some of the factors contributing to low condom usage in the country," Dr Okech said.

Shortage of the commodity also contributes to the low usage of condoms in the country, Dr Okech added.

"Some Kenyans really depend on the government to provide free condoms at health facilities. When they do not find them in these facilities and they don't have the Sh100 to buy a pack, they just do without it.

"This puts their lives and those of many others at risk," the researcher explained.

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