Kenya Gets Plan B

Elisabeth Garber-Paul

While here it has, generally, become a widely accepted emergency option, the BBC reported today that in Kenya, the emergency pill—or e-pill, as it’s called there—has caught on as many women’s favorite method of birth control, “some even buying the pills in advance.”

When the Plan B pill was first approved by the FDA and released onto the US market in 1999, there was some concern that women would use it as a regular part of their birth control routine, instead of an emergency option when regular birth control fails.

While here it has, generally, become a widely accepted emergency option, the BBC reported today that in Kenya, the emergency pill—or e-pill, as it’s called there—has caught on as many women’s favorite method of birth control, “some even buying the pills in advance.”

“Josephine Kibaru, head of family health in the ministry of health, is a strong advocate of contraception. But she has some reservations about the intense media campaign promoting the emergency pill.
    
‘The impression I get is that university girls are using these pills irresponsibly… If they are needing them it means they have had unprotected sex,’ she said. ‘My concern actually is about the HIV/Aids… it is something that will ruin their lives forever.’”

With 1.2 million adults infected with HIV/AIDS in Kenya—the eighth highest country in the world, according to the CIA Factbook—this trend of unprotected sex and retroactive birth control could be worrying if it marks a shift from practicing safer sex because of sexually transmitted infections, to just worrying about pregnancies.

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The press in Nairobi seems to be placing the blame on the media campaign that was put together by the American NGO Populations Services International. The campaign, which has been endorsed by the government, is a series of ads in newspapers and magazines and on free bookmarks.

“Just when we thought sanity was slowly drifting back to the youth,” wrote Njoki Karuoya today in Nairobi’s The Standard, “the proponents of this campaign, who to my shock also include the Government if a recent advertisement in the papers is anything to go by, go back to the streets to scream that unprotected sex is safe as long as a girl gets her hands on the e-pill!”

Hopefully, the introduction of the e-pill to Kenya will mean that young women can have more control over becoming pregnant with the assistance of a morning-after option. However, in a country that has been transformed by HIV/AIDS over the past three decades, shouldn’t there be more concern about practicing safer sex, not just preventing pregnancy?

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