Alarm as hospitals run out of test kits, condoms derailing war on HIV

There are fears that the situation will lead to increase in HIV infections and other sexually transmitted diseases, as well as unwanted pregnancies. [iStockphoto]

An acute shortage of HIV testing kits and condoms has hit public health facilities across Makueni County, compromising the war against HIV/Aids.

There are fears that the situation will lead to a sharp increase in HIV infections and other Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STIs), as well as unwanted pregnancies.

Condoms are normally given free of charge in public hospitals. The shortage has extended to hotels and restaurants where condom dispensers have run out of the commodity. 

A spot check by The Standard in various public hospitals in Kibwezi, Makindu, Kathonzweni, Matiliku, Mbooni as well as Makueni County Referral Hospital, established that the kits and contraceptives were in short supply forcing users to buy them from chemists, at an extra cost.

A junior medic at Kathonzweni hospital who is not authorised to speak to the media revealed that prenatal care is also facing a major challenge as the facility lacks testing kits to help prevent possible mother-to-child HIV transmission. 

“Pregnant women are required to have various tests including blood, HIV, and syphilis. We have been unable to conduct these tests due to the lack of the kits. More worrying is that we cannot even attend to cases of sexual assault,” said the officer.

Sex workers along the Mombasa-Nairobi highway have not been spared either.

Catherine Kilonzo, the team leader Mtito Andei Sex Workers, said the lack of HIV testing kits is affecting their work.

“Working without the test kits is a big challenge for us. Some of our clients reject condoms, that’s why we carry around the kits,” Kilonzo.

Makueni sub-county Public Health Officer Joseph Kavoi confirmed the shortage of male condoms saying they fear the scarcity may persist. 

But, Dr Andrew Mulwa, the Director of Medical Services, at the Ministry of Health, downplayed the shortage.

“We have enough test kits in the country. The problem is between Kemsa (Kenya Medical Supplies Authority) and counties with debts running into millions of shillings,” said Dr Mulwa. 

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