Condoms. Condoms help prevent HIV infection.

The flooding around the country over the past month has left behind a trail of death, displacement, destruction and broken infrastructure not witnessed in recent times.

Hundreds of families are dependent on emergency relief, having been uprooted from their homes by flood waters that washed away their crops and livestock and turned their farms into oceanic pools.

As this catastrophe unfolded, all and sundry were crying out for aid in the form of food and other basic amenities.

Yet one woman displaced from her home by the floods caught the attention of the nation when she boldly urged the government to supply the flood victims with condoms.

CONDOMS
To many people, this plea was as hilarious as it was ironic; comic relief in a sea of disaster.

But the woman was dead serious: Supply us with condoms and save our lives.

This stirred up the social media with endless debate and all manner of interpretations.

Many wondered whether people living in makeshift structures, on food aid, had the energy or time to even think about intimacy.

They couldn’t understand why she would ask for condoms and not food.

However, the incident has helped to bring into perspective how the public views condoms.

HIV
I applaud the Kilifi resident and those whom she spoke for for being brave enough to appreciate the important role condoms play in the prevention of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.

Consistent and proper use of condoms has been proven to be effective in prevention of HIV infection by 80-95 per cent.

In 2014, Kenya developed the HIV Prevention Revolution Roadmap, the blueprint of prevention of the disease.

The roadmap placed a number of great interventions on HIV prevention that were biomedical, behavioural and structural in nature.

It set targets for 2015 to 2030, the key one reduction of new infections by 75 per cent by 2020 and to zero by 2030.

SENSITISATION
Notably, the roadmap uses the combination prevention approach — combining the biomedical, behavioural and structural interventions.

The Kilifi case is a clear indication that community knowledge of the place of condoms in HIV prevention is high.

The call was community-led — a clear indication that sensitisation on the role of condoms in HIV and STI prevention has been done well in the region.

We all would like to see more citizens who take charge of their health and are willing to take an active role in it.

However, that is not the case. We still have many people who have not embraced HIV prevention interventions.

HIV INFECTIONS

According to a 2015 profile report, the HIV and AIDS burden in Kenya accounts for an estimated 71,034 new HIV infections among adults and 29 per cent of annual adults deaths.

As a citizenry, we need to reflect on this and ask ourselves, “What role are we playing in reducing new HIV infections?”

I am not stating that the condom is the only HIV prevention strategy; it is not. It is just one among the many proven HIV prevention strategies.

With the advancement in science, we have seen many more HIV prevention measures — including PreP, PEP, faithfulness and abstinence.

PERSONAL HEALTH
According to the 2014 District Health Information System (DHIS) report, condom usage at last sex with a non-regular partner for men was at 72 per cent and women 55.5 per cent.

Well, the situation might be the same as in 2014, improved or declined over the years.

What is important is for us to recognise our personal role in our health.

Demand creation for HIV prevention services is important.

But this can only happen when people know the services that are available, where to access them and their benefits.

In the Kilifi case, the people knew the importance of the services but, due to displacement, needed access and that was done through the extra-ordinary request.

By FAITH MWENDE

Source: https://www.nation.co.ke/oped/opinion/Condoms-plea-proof-of-anti-HIV-progress/440808-4555158-cp7jdi/