Stem huge risk of HIV

Reports that commercial sex workers are abusing pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) drugs are worrying indeed.

The prescriptive drugs should be used to prevent HIV/Aids in mainly emergency situations but, alarmingly, they are now being used casually in lieu of condoms, which have perennially been in short supply across the country.

An investigative report by this newspaper shows the drugs are being stolen from public hospitals and sold in the black market, where stiff competition in the sex trade has seen people pay more for unprotected sexual activity, prompting commercial sex workers to resort to them to protect themselves.

This unfortunate trend points to laxity in the control of drug supplies, a fact that has confirmed the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (Kemsa), which supplies drugs to public hospitals, as a hotbed of corruption. It also points to a lack of comprehensive sensitisation of the public, and especially vulnerable groups such as commercial sex workers, on the need to adopt proper HIV/Aids protection measures.

There is an urgent need for the authorities to plug the loopholes through which the drugs are siphoned and ensure there is a constant and adequate nationwide supply of condoms. More importantly, there is a need for a comprehensive campaign on HIV/Aids protection.

The fact that commercial sex workers ignorantly believe they will be safe as long as they use such drugs even before being tested is simply alarming.

Health and security agencies must break the networks through which the drugs are stolen. Holding the crooks accountable will serve as a warning that such serious violations of health protocols come with dire consequences. That is the surest way to stem the risk of faster spread of endemic HIV.