NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 18 – Studies done by the National AIDS and STI Control Programme (NASCOP) this year have revealed that the percentage of women infected with HIV has greatly risen compared to that of men, despite a reduction in overall prevalence.
NASCOP Director of the Programmes William Maina said among adults aged between 15 and 64 years, 6.9 percent women are infected with HIV compared to 4.4 percent of infected men.
Maina partly attributed the rise in infections to the fact that women have no access or information as well as stigmatization on the female condom. In 2012 the government distributed a whooping 176 million male condoms and only 1.7 million female condoms.
“The government in 2012 ensured that men engaging in sex are protected by distributing condoms over a wide area. However the women have very little or no access to their own form of protection as the female condoms manufactured are very few and are only distributed in the urban areas,” said Maina.
He acknowledged that some women are not aware that the female condom exists and their husbands would not take the idea kindly if they wanted to use it.
“Very few women even know how the female condom looks like and it is time for the government and medical practitioners especially the gynaecologists to shed light on the female condom as they advice their patients,” explained Maina.
“It is extremely hard to find a female condom as compared to the male condom with many women shying away from buying condoms terming it promiscuous to have a woman carry a condom,” he added.
Maina explained that few pharmacies and shops stock the female condom and those that do, attach a high price tag to it something that he termed as unfair and called for increased sensitisation.
The NASCOP report also showed that female sex workers and discordant couples are the one exposed to the greatest risk and use of the condom by both men and women would ensure full protection.
Capital FM News scouted the Central Business District in a bid to find a female condom and determine whether the concerns raised by NASCOP are true.
“We don’t stock the condom as it is not available and they are only given out in a few government hospitals and the family planning clinics,” said a pharmacist who wished to remain anonymous.
She explained that seldom do they receive customers who are looking to purchase the female condom blaming this on the lack of knowledge of its existence.
“The first time I saw one was early this year at a family planning clinic in Nakuru and when I opened it I could not understand its structure, it is too complex,” she added.
The government of Kenya through NASCOP has promised to lead campaigns to create awareness of the female condom saying that if awareness is created then the prevalence and infection rates will go down.