Gov’t to spend more billions on HIV treatment, management

Monday, February 19th, 2024 18:54 | By
Gov't to spend more billions for HIV treatment, management
AIDS Healthcare Foundation- AHF Country Director, Dr. Samuel Kinyanjui. PHOTO/George Kebaso

One Kenyan in the age bracket of 18 to 24 years who gets infected with HIV today is likely to cost the government an estimated Ksh1.4 million by the time they reach an estimated life expectancy of 60 to 65 years.

This is if urgent efforts to reduce new HIV infections among persons in the age bracket in question are not put in place.

Data from the National Syndemic Disease Control Council (NSDCC) show that treating one HIV patient costs the government up to Ksh30,000 per year.

The government is currently struggling to manage the cost of HIV treatment and management for the country's 1.3 million people who are on ARVs, as the road for donor support continues to narrow.

"More than 69 per cent of the new infections are among those who are below 29 years old, while between 18 and 24 years, represent 50 per cent of those infected annually," Kenya Demographic Health Survey (KDHS) 2022 reads in part.

AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) Country Director, Dr Samuel Kinyanjui said on World Condom Day in Nairobi this trend is worrying because this group has a longer lifespan, and is likely to be a long-term economic burden to the government.

"It is estimated that every person who has been infected with HIV, requires about Ksh30,000 per year for treatment. "And if you calculate the 1.3 million Kenyans on ARVs as a constant number for years to come, the government will be forced to spend more billions of shillings on HIV treatment and management for a long period," Kinyanjui said, emphasising that one of the surest ways to prevent populations from further infection is for the government to ensure condoms are available, and well utilised.

And with donors continuing to fold up their activities in the country, coupled with the growing burden of national debt, he foresees a situation where the government will throw in the towel, and ask Kenyans to bear the cost of treatment on their own.

"This makes the picture clearer as the government will require huge sums of money to ensure adequate treatment for this group of Kenyans in their lifetime," he told journalists.

This is worrying, he further noted, explaining that the statistics being used to illuminate the situation, are just for now.

"What will happen in the next few years when donors finally exit from the country?" Dr. Kinyanjui posed, calling on the government to lift taxes on condoms to ease the burden of importation and distribution.

Statistics show that the Global Fund and Kenyan government spend an estimated Ksh1.2 billion to purchase 150 million condoms against a demand of 450 million based on the population of the sexually active age group of young people 35 years and below. Again, this is based on 1 man for 40 condoms in a year on average.

"This means there is a deficit of Ksh2.4 billion to close that gap," he said.

Usage of condoms according to the KDHS 2022 shows that this uptake is still low at 14 condoms per year per person, exposing them to a gap of 26 condoms.

In the recent past, he noted there has been a constant shortage of condoms, and this can be traced to the continued taxation, which has forced importers to shy away. AHF is one of those who have been relying on donations to distribute free-to-use condoms.

"Those who gave us these commodities have said they can't donate for free and facilitate transportation for free and give money to distribute for free yet the government has continued to champion an unfriendly tax regime," he pointed out.

On Tuesday, ahead of Wednesday's Valentine's Day, safe sex advocates urged the government to lower taxes on condoms.

Dr Ruth Masha, the Chief Executive Officer, NSDCC said the government is in talks with stakeholders to reduce the prices of condoms, noting the country has a taxation regime that levies tools and products making the private sector condoms and donations taxed.

“We do advocate as stakeholders coordinating multi-sector approach that condoms should not attract any added cost because they save lives," she said at the Mathare Youth Sports Association (MYSA) grounds on Kangundo Road.

She said the country has been operating with resource gaps over the years because of over-reliance on external donors for condoms.

"Over 80 per cent of our condom market is public sector with the commercial sector and socially marketed enjoying only two per cent of market share, and therefore, we have to look at huge resources to make sure that we have enough condoms to satisfy every need,” Masha said.

She added that the government is looking at partnerships to spur local manufacture of the product to increase access.

World Condom Day also known as International Condom Day is celebrated on February 13 every year, one day before Valentine’s Day.

The day, celebrated across the world was created by the US-based nonprofit AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which was established in 1987 in reaction to the HIV/AIDS crisis.

Condoms serve as a crucial means of safeguarding against unintended pregnancies, Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs), and HIV.

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