The National Aids Control Council (NACC) has embarked on an initiative to map out strategic points across the country to be installed with condom dispensers to increase access for the general public.
The exercise, according to John Kamigwi, the Deputy Director Policy Strategy and Research, comes from the realization about the importance of condoms in reducing new HIV infections, if appropriately and correctly used.
“This week we are installing dispensers in some of the identified points in Kirinyaga County, and we call upon more partners to come up and support this noble initiative to ensure that our people can access condoms at their convenience,” Kamigwi said.
The official said HIV prevalence rates have reduced in the last decade culminating in the current reduced prevalence rate of 4.8 percent among the general population as per the 2018 HIV estimates.
He said new HIV infections have reduced from 88,600 in 2013 to 44, 789 in 2019 reflecting a 50 percent reduction in four years as per the 2019 estimates.
“Here in Kirinyaga County, we note that as per the estimates, prevalence was 3.1 percent among adults and new annual HIV infections of 673 cases,” he said.
Kamigwi said Aids still remains the second highest cause of death among the adolescent and young people.
“What is of more concern is that the HIV infection rate is higher among the young people aged between 15- 24 years, and with 70 percent of the population being below the age of 24, creating the need to focus on this youthful population in order to transform country development and attain shared prosperity among Kenyans,” he said.
Kamigwi said efforts must be intensified to ensure that all young people delay their sexual debut for as long as possible.
He said research has shown that keeping children in school up to secondary school significantly reduces the risk of new HIV infections, STIs and unintended pregnancies among girls.
“As people we need to ensure that positive values in line with our culture and religious values are reinforced among our young people, again this calls for involvement of the custodians of our culture and morality to be at the forefront of the prevention agenda,” he said.
Kamigwi who made the remarks on Saturday at Kirinyaga University grounds during a HIV awareness campaign, commended Kirinyaga County for the efforts in HIV prevention initiatives which included the recent motion by the Assembly to increase access to condoms among the population.
The Kirinyaga County Commissioner (CC), Jim Njoka who was the chief guest during the occasion said the 672 new HIV cases were still high and needed to be brought down.
He said in 2019, 28 percent of pregnancies in the county involved teenage girls aged between 15 and 18 years, a matter which should also be addressed.
Njoka said more collaboration is required in the fight against HIV and Aids adding that early pregnancies have become a real burden to the parents.
He said drug abuse and alcoholism is a big contributor towards the spread of HIV and Aids and should be addressed with the seriousness it deserves.
”We are also raising a red flag and caution our university students against being radicalized and joining terrorism groupings which promise them good life in future,” Njoka said.
He said those who have joined such groups have later confessed how hard the going had been after they enlisted.
“We would like all the students to be champions of counter terrorism and work with the security personnel in bringing down terrorism activities in our county,” Njoka said.
The CC said the engagement of County Boda Boda as HIV peer educators will go a long way in curbing the spread of the pandemic among the youth.
During the occasion two students from Kirinyaga University, Brian Makau and Miriam Mueni were crowned the King and Queen of condoms in Kirinyaga County.
The tittles will see them enhance the campaign for the use of condoms among their peers at various institutions in Kirinyaga County.
The event was sponsored by among others the Aids Health Foundation (AHF) PS Kenya Pathfinder International, LVCT health and TICAH.
By Irungu Mwangi