‘Traditional herbal cures may just make the biggest contribution here’
There is overwhelming anecdotal evidence that sexual and reproductive health complications relating to menstruation, fertility, contraception, pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, hygiene and chronic conditions like endometriosis and polycystic ovary syndrome are on the rise. Similarly, cases of erectile dysfunction, low sperm count and libido are increasingly being reported amongst younger age groups of men than before.
Mostly attributable to the conditions of changing lifestyles, eating habits and even to the side effects of increased dependence on drugs and medical contraception regimes that upset hormonal balance, it is apparent that an increasing number of Kenyans suffer from poor sexual and reproductive health. A large number of the sexual and reproductive health complications affecting women still arises from social and traditional practices that do not address social rights issues like familial and spousal support, sex education, early sexual debuts and the violation of reproductive sexual and health rights among some communities and classes of society.
As fate would have it, sexual and reproductive health issues continue to fall through the gaps within a public health systems overwhelmed by mainstream diseases like HIV/AIDS, TB, HPV and now covid19. Of the major diseases afflicting sexual and reproductive health, the human papillomavirus (HPV), which manifests in up to 40 different strains and for which there is a vaccine but no cure, is now so common that ‘nearly all sexually active men and women may get it at some point in their lives’ (CDC).
As a result of such and similar trends, millions continue suffer from sexual and reproductive health complications without seeking treatment while many more yet are resorting to traditional medicine, which is steadily being elevated to the status of the default solution for this class of ailments and conditions.
Many more reasons may be put forward to explain this particular trend. The diagnosis, treatment and nature of sexual and reproductive health complications demand more privacy, confidentiality and patience than the public health system may afford ordinary citizens. Issues of perception and stigma continue to permeate the sexual and reproductive health space where severe abdominal pains are treated as overeaction to normal menstrual pains or may be treated with suspicion by medical practitioners as being associated with abortions or the abuse of contraceptives, etc. Patients suffering from endometriosis especially continue to suffer due to the difficulty of diagnosing the same as being distinct from menstrual pain, often leading to long periods of suffering and further complications down the line.
On another plane, sexual and reproductive health conditions may be perceived as competing with the more serious medical conditions for public resources, thus forcing this class of patients to the fringes of the public health system.
As a logical outcome of these factors and trends, it is apparent that the biggest social impact of traditional medicine will be felt in the treatment and management of sexual and reproductive health complications and conditions, against which traditional herbal solutions continue to be particularly effective for most conditions afflicting both sexes