As Kenyan Government Prepares Condom Policy, President Daniel Arap Moi Asks Citizens to Refrain From Sex for Two Years
In three weeks, Kenya will unveil a national condom policy as part of its HIV/AIDS prevention plan, the Daily Nation reports (Shimoli, Daily Nation, 7/11). However, President Daniel arap Moi is "urging" Kenyans to abstain from sex for two years to help prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, saying it "embarrass[es]" him to be spending government money on condoms. "As a president, I am shy that I am spending millions of shillings importing those things," he told a meeting of the Pharmaceutical Society of Kenya. Arap Moi said as president he will "do the best I can [to combat the country's HIV/AIDS epidemic], but the solution is to prevent, not to participate," adding that the condoms were "essential" to fighting the disease. He asked members of the society to help spread a "message of morality" during a month-long drug awareness campaign to appeal to the international community for cheaper drugs. The initiative was launched yesterday at the meeting (Omari, Daily Nation, 7/12). Dr. Kenneth Chebet, head of the AIDS control unit of the Ministry of Health, said Wednesday that the condom policy will include the distribution of 300 million condoms recently purchased by the government as part of its effort to curb HIV infections among people between the ages of 15 and 25 by 30% over the next four years. Last year, 10 million condoms were used by Kenyans, according to the AIDS Control Council. The new shipment, for which the cost has not been disclosed, will provide an average of 60 condoms for every sexually active male over the next year. Official estimates place the current number of HIV infections among Kenyans at 2.2 million. The inter-ministerial committee drafting the plan, which is expected to include guidelines for the distribution of the condoms, sought to include religious leaders, including Catholic and Muslim leaders who object to condom use, in order to "ensure widespread acceptability," Chebet said (Daily Nation, 7/11). However, religious leaders were "swift" to oppose the plan, saying the government should be promoting abstinence instead. "Committing adultery is against the laws of God and importing condoms will mean that more people will be actively engaged in sex," Catholic Archbishop of Mombasa John Njenga told the East African Standard. Sheikh Mohamed Dor, secretary-general of the Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya, said the country was "committing suicide" by offering the condoms, when he said would "encourage" young people to engage in "premature" sex (Reuters/Contra Costa Times, 7/12).
Government Taking Steps to Provide Drug Access
During yesterday's meeting with the Pharmaceutical Society, arap Moi said the government was "taking measures" to provide infected citizens with antiretroviral treatment and pointed to the recent passage of the Industrial Property Bill and a "restructuring" of the country's medical supply service as evidence of the government's resolve to increase drug access. Public Health Minister Sam Ongeri said the government is restructuring the national laboratory to "vet" generic drugs in order to "ensure" their efficacy and safety. Dr. Wanjau Mbuthia, chair of the society, also suggested the government create a Director of Pharmacy position to "streamline" industry regulations and recommended that parliament pass a law allowing the society to "punish errant members." Arap Moi added that he has asked the international community for assistance in procuring the anti-AIDS drugs (Daily Nation, 7/12).
U.S. 'Releases' $11.5 Million in Prevention Aid to Kenya
The East African Standard reports that the U.S. government has given Kenya $11.5 million to devote to HIV/AIDS efforts. Peter Claussen, a spokesperson for the U.S. embassy in Nairobi, said the money was $3.5 million more than the amount "promised" to the government by Secretary of State Colin Powell on his May visit to Kenya. On that visit, Powell was "approximating" the U.S. donation, which will help fund prevention efforts, and therefore gave a lower $8 million estimate. The money will go to Family Health International, Impact Project and PathFinder International among other groups (Wangusi, East African Standard, 7/12).
Elite to Blame for Spread of AIDS?
In other Kenyan news, Central Provincial Commissioner Zachary Ogongo yesterday told a group of American students that the country's "elite" are responsible for the spread of HIV/AIDS in Kenya, the Daily Nation reports. "In Kenya, HIV/AIDS started with the cream of society acquiring it. The only message they gave to the people was 'beware people are sick' while they were the same people who were sick," he said. "Although the awareness is high now it is not sufficient to change the attitude, coupled with the stigmatization of both family members and those infected, who fail to disclose what one is suffering from," he added. "[W]idespread" drug abuse among the country's youth, which aids the spread of the disease, "crept" unnoticed into Kenyan society "and the first thing was denial," he said, adding that the government is now "admitting it is a societal problem" (Daily Nation, 7/12).