When the calendar hits Valentine’s Day, quite a number of people joins the love celebratory event, but how many people know about such other important global celebrations? I posed the question to different people in Taita Taveta County on this year’s World Female Condom Day on 16 September and to my surprise, very few were aware of it.
Despite the much emphasis on use of contraceptives and HIV/AIDS campaigns in Kenya, many of the people who I sought response from concealed that they had not heard of the female condoms. However others said that they had heard about the same on media platform though they hadn’t seen them.
“Female condom is safe, simple, and convenient. “ Pascal Ochieng, a gynecology consultant says. Ochieng says that Women and men like female condoms because female condoms allow women to share responsibility for preventing infection as well as alternative family planning method for married couples.
He whoever, attributes the high numbers of HIV infection among women to lack of enough education on how women can protect themselves. “Many women are not aware of the female condoms and therefore depend on men to use a condom.” Said Ochieng. “If a man refuses to use it then that poses an infection threat.” He added.
Ochieng’ advise women who are allergic to latex to try water-based lubricants since they do not have any effect on a woman's natural hormones.
Tabitha Saru 23, a business woman in Voi town says though she has heard of the female condoms, she’s not aware of how to use them. “Have only read about female condoms online but have never had an opportunity to experiment their pleasure because they are scarce in the market.” She said. “If my boyfriend is willing to use condom am ok with that and I have nothing to worry about.” She added
Our interview is interrupted by her client, Elizabeth Mwaluma whom I seek to know her take on the issue. “I have never used female condoms though I won’t advocate unprotected sex.” said Mwaluma. “I would prefer having them since you never know when to crush into unplanned date.” She added.
I meet up in another interview with Carol (not her real name), a sex worker in Maungu along the busy Mombasa-Nairobi highway and she opens up about her experience in female condom use. “Our ‘business’ comes with high risk of HIV infections so I usually use condoms as my main STDs prevention measure.” She narrates.
Following the increasing population in the area Corol say she uses up to 15 condoms every day. “You know that the town’s population is now high because of the standard gauge railway workers so I make sure that I have enough packs every day. I usually insert a new condom after am done with a client because most of them are in hurry and you may not get time to fix it once you go to the room.I also like it because you can insert female condoms up to eight hours before having sex unlike the male condom that depends on erection” She disclosed.
“I would advise women to think of self-protection because we won’t bring to zero new HIV infection if we only leave the task to men.” She added.
Female condoms are rare in public condom dispensers and are mainly acquired from chemists and family planning clinics.
According to the National AIDS Control Council (NACC), Women in Kenya are more vulnerable to HIV infection compared to Kenyan men, with the national HIV prevalence at 7.6 per cent for women and 5.6 per cent for men.
HIV and AIDS in Kenya accounts for an estimated 29 per cent of annual adult deaths, 20 per cent of maternal mortality, and 15 per cent of deaths of children under the age of five 2. It has also negatively affected the country’s economy by lowering per capita output by 4.1 per cent.
Mwatate sub County NACC coordinator Dominic Kitando says that more campaigns must be set to encourage people use contraceptives. “We need to make both male and female condoms available to all public dispensers as a way of reducing the number of infections.”
“The HIV prevalence among women in Taita Taveta County is higher (8.7%) than that of men (3.7%). Over the years, the women living in the county have been more vulnerable to HIV infection than the men.” reads in part the NACC 201 Kenya HIV County Profile report.
Kitando however says that he expects the number to go much down in this year’s report. “As per the report, we have 11,209 people living with HIV/AIDs in Taita Taveta county but with the current rate of sensitization we hope the new infection rate will go down.” says Kitando.
Despite the huge importance of HIV testing as a way to increase prevention and treatment, about 73 per cent of people in Taita Taveta County had never tested for HIV by 2009.