Barely 40, many Kenyan men are finding it difficult to kindle the bedroom fire unless with some medication.
“This is a cry out for help,” says Dr Peter Ongwae, a pharmacist who recently led an investigation into the ‘epidemic like’ use of sex enhancing drugs in the country.
“Within a period of five years, the number of registered sex enhancing drugs (SEDs) increased by over 500 per cent,” says Ongwae.
This, he says, is definitely a matter of great public health concern, especially considering this is a country of youthful people.
While, for example, there were only 11 registered brands of sex drugs by the Pharmacy and Poisons Board in 2013, five years later, in 2018, there were 56.
“These drugs are outselling even popular painkillers like Panadol,” said Dr Kamamia wa Murichu, chairman of Kenya Pharmaceuticals Distributors Association.
Unfortunately, Ongwae says there has been no data to indicate who is using these medicines, why the spike and the impact on public health.
Teaming up with Bernard Guyo and Harrisone Etemesi at Maseno University, they recruited 71 adult men who buy sex enhancing drugs in retail chemists in western Kenya.
Last Monday, a week after the team had published its findings, Ongwae told The Standard they found many of the users to have serious underlying health problems.
Ninety five per cent of the study participants reported some level of sex dysfunction, an indication of a genuine need for a medical solution.
The report published in the Global Journal of Health Science shows unlike widely portrayed, men using SEDs in Kenya are hardly the adolescents or teenagers. The results show 55 per cent of the study participants were aged between 30 and 49.
“The study elucidated that majority, over 80 per cent, of Kenyan men above 40 years of age suffer from some form of sexual dysfunction,” Dr Ongwae said in a follow up email.
The team found a third of the study participants to have underlying chronic health conditions that may be cause for their poor sex health.
Up to 30 per cent of the study participants were suffering from various chronic conditions, including hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and depression.
Results from this study, like several others, Ongwae said, showed that co-morbidities impacted on sexual function through different pathways resulting in the use of sex drugs.
“I’m concerned that up to 24 per cent of our people are living with high blood pressure and 5 per cent are at risk of developing diabetes,” said Mutahi Kagwe, the Health CS while in Nyeri recently.
Last year Nairobi’s Karen Hospital warned of increasing hypertension and heart conditions, especially among men. A report at the hospital showed one of three clients visiting its 12 clinics was hypertensive. “This is alarming and emergency policies need to be adopted to moderate on diet, physical activity, weight loss, smoking and alcohol intake,” warned the hospital.
The current study found a significant number of participants consumed alcohol. “There was a clear link between the use of sex pills and alcohol consumption.”
More wives, cycling to blame
A similar finding has also been made among the Ariaal community of Northern Kenya showing men with more wives were less likely to suffer sexual dysfunction.
For the third time in as many years, the issue of bicycle riding as a cause of male impotency came up in this study, which covered Vihiga, Kakamega and Bungoma counties.
Two earlier studies among bicycle boda boda operators in Bungoma and Eldoret reported that men who cycled for long periods were nine times more likely to become impotent compared to non-cyclists. The reports had warned young men to go slow on the pedal.
This remains sound advice, said Dr Isaac Wamalwa, a practicing consultant gynaecologist in Nairobi, who had done the Bungoma study.
Wamalwa said most young men undertaking vigorous biking exercises or cycling boda bodas for long hours may be gradually losing their manhood.
While the bicycle theory is still controversial, a recent global review of 843 biking studies by the International Society for Sexual Medicine concluded that indeed cycling was bad for the health of male riders.
But it is both happiness and tears for older men in the 50-75 bracket, who are also using sex drugs. A study of this age group at Kenyatta National Hospital found high use of sex pills among those who were HIV positive compared to the those who were not.
The pleasure pills, the authors, including Prof Yeri Kombe of the Kenya Medical Research Institute, suggested, made the older men amorous, driving them to the risk of HIV infection.
The older men, indicated to get their pills from friends, pharmacies, and sex shops, are said to be having a ball in their sunset years.