Authorities in the border district of Busia have expressed concern that cases of HIV/Aids and other sexually transmitted diseases may increase following a shortage of condoms on the Kenyan side of the border.The crisis has reportedly forced sex workers in several parts of western Kenyan towns of Busia, Kisumu, Bungoma, Kakamega, and Malaba to resort to washing and reusing condoms, putting their lives and those of their clients at risk.Mr Cosmas Okale, a health official at Busia-Kenya, said in an interview on Wednesday: “We are having issues related to the supply of condoms, which has lasted for over a year and we fear it may escalate the rate of HIV infections.”
The shortage of condoms in Kenya is worrying authorities on the Ugandan side of the border who say since there is a constant movement of women in the sex trade across both borders, there are fears of escalating infections.
Mr Amosiah Ongatai, the manager of Youth Environment Service, a non-governmental organisation involved in HIV/Aids prevention and counselling, said the shortage of condoms was a “big concern” to health service providers at the border.
“We have close to 2,000 sex workers across the Ugandan and Kenyan borders, and with the flourishing sex trade, we are worried about being hit by a surge in infections,” Mr Ongatai said.
Mr Ronald Barasa, the HIV/Aids focal person at Amalgamated Transporters and General Workers Union, which is involved in the prevention, testing, and counselling of sex workers at the border, said each day, they receive more than 20 sex workers from Kenya who request for condoms.
“They have been telling us that in their country, they have run out of condoms,” Mr Barasa said.
A sex worker in one of the bars and lodges at the border, who declined to be named because of the nature of her trade, described the shortage of condoms in Kenya as “real”.
She said some of her Ugandan counterparts operating in Kenya were frequenting shops in search of condoms, while others, who work as far as Bungoma and Kakamega, have been traveling long distances to “borrow” condoms from them.