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Alarm as youth quit condoms for tablets in HIV prevention

 Stanley Ngara commonly known as King of Condom distributes packets of condoms to WRC Safari Rally fans in Naivasha. [Mercy Kahenda, Standard]

The Ministry of Health raised an alarm over increased demand for Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) at the ongoing World Rally Champions, happening in Naivasha.

The ministry said the highest uptake has been reported among adolescents, young adults and sex workers.

The National Syndemic Disease Control Council Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Dr Ruth Laibon-Masha said it is worrying that individuals are waiting for high-risk sex to happen, then seeking treatment.

“Demand for post-exposure is high which means more people are having unprotected sex, with high-risk individuals,” said Dr Masha.

She added, “When there is high demand for PEP, it means unprotected risk sex has already happened. It is important to know how to protect yourself. You have a condom, should take seven days before,”

PEP is an emergency treatment for HIV, which is taken after possible exposure to HIV. The medicine is taken for 28 days.

Masha said the majority of the population using PEP does not know about protecting themselves against HIV.

Several people seeking PEP, she said, report having condom busts, not aware of the status of those they have sex with, and not being aware of the availability of Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).

Additionally, those demanding the services claim to have been under the influence of substances and alcohol that prompted them to indulge in unprotected sex, with a high-risk individual.

“Most of them (individuals seeking PEP) tell us they were drunk,” added Masha.

“We are having a challenge with the way we are educating our people, these people have been at risk, and are waiting for risk to happen then come back post-risk,” she said.

The Ministry of Health for example encourages the use of Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for safety.

PrEP is an antiretroviral medication for HIV-negative people, which reduces the risk of HIV acquisition.

The drug is taken seven days before having unprotected sex.

“We have realised that the population does not have much knowledge about protecting themselves if planning to have unprotected sex,” said the Masha.

Data and reports by the ministry reveal a majority of people seek PEP late, risking transmission of HIV.

“The challenge we have is they come late, later than 72 hours which again we can see like 104,000 including those who were raped ended up having HIV,” said Masha.

She added, “You have a condom, you have post-exposure to protect yourself, but that one you can take at least seven days before having high-risk sex,”

“We are trying to educate the public and telling them that if something happens to you, for example, you have unprotected sex, you have been raped including those who have been sodomised, we ask them to go to health facilities within 72 hours, the drugs don’t work after 72 hours, and their effectiveness wines,” she advised.

Masha was speaking in Naivasha where NSDCC has erected at least six camps to provide HIV services.

 Stanley Ngara commonly known as King of Condom distributes packets of condoms to WRC Safari Rally fans in Naivasha. [Mercy Kahenda, Standard]

Medical camps were erected at Kameme Beach, Kendo, Karagita Beach, Bufallo Mall, Soy Sambu, Elementaita and Sleeping Warriors.

Among services provided in the medical camps include screening of HIV, Hepatitis and Sexually transmitted diseases like syphilis.

Self-HIV testing kits are also being distributed.

By Sunday morning, more than 10,000 people picked oral HIV testing kits, with at least 15,000 having received other services.

A spot check at the rally camps revealed high consumption of alcohol among young people. Alcohol was sold even after the government banned its sale.

Adolescents in skimpy dresses were also spotted, some indulging in alcohol abuse, and smoking.

NSDCC together with other partners and the County Government of Nakuru is currently conducting a campaign on alcohol consumption and drug abuse.

Nakuru County Chief Officer of Health Joyce Ncece added that Nakuru has increased cases of sexually transmitted infections and HIV, associated with rallies that have been happening.

“Most speculators attending the rally bring with them young people. We have seen so many people coming for condoms, and for services,” said Ncece.

Ncece added, “We are going back to where we were, cases had gone doown but seems that the gains we had we are losing them. Most of those affected are the youth,”

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