President Daniel Arap Moi has urged Kenyans to abstain from sex for at least two years to try to curb the spread of AIDS, newspapers reported today.
Moi was speaking after the government announced plans on Wednesday to import 300 million condoms to fight AIDS, a move which has already run into opposition from religious leaders.
"As a president, I am shy that I am spending millions of shillings importing those things," Moi told a meeting of the Pharmaceutical Society of Kenya on Wednesday.
As a further preventive measure, Moi pleaded with Kenyans to refrain from sex "even for only two years," saying that was the best way to check the epidemic.
Kenyan Health Ministry experts estimate that 700 Kenyans die every day of AIDS, and a further 2.2 million are infected with HIV in a population of 30 million.
Already Against Sex
The government's plans to import the condoms ran into swift opposition from both Christian and Muslim religious leaders who believe the government should be more actively promoting abstinence.
"Committing adultery is against the laws of God and importing condoms will mean that more people will be actively engaged in sex," the Catholic archbishop of the port city of Mombasa, John Njenga, told the East African Standard.
The secretary-general of the Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya, Sheikh Mohamed Dor, said the country was "committing suicide" importing so many condoms, a move he said would encourage young people to have premature sex.
After a slow start, Kenya's government is finally beginning to wake up to the scale of the disaster confronting the East African country as a result of AIDS.
In late 1999, Moi declared the epidemic a national disaster and set up a National AIDS Control Council.
Last month, Kenya's parliament became only the second in Africa to pass legislation which would allow the country to import and manufacture cheap generic medicines.
The Industrial Properties Bill 2001 loosens the patent rights of the global pharmaceutical companies in Kenya in a bid to lower the price of the anti-retroviral drugs used to treat HIV-positive patients.