Kenya has been applauded for being among six African countries that have recorded a distinctive drop in new HIV infections in children, according to a report by the joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). The number of children newly infected with HIV in the country is said to have decreased by 40 per cent in the last two years.
80,000 PEOPLE DIED IN ONE YEAR
It is estimated that in 2009, 80,000 people died from AIDS-related illnesses in Kenya forcing the government to come up with plans to control the epidemic. The 2009-2014 Kenyan National HIV and AIDS Strategic Plan (KNASP III) was unveiled and its main aim was to reduce the number of new HIV infections by using evidence-based approaches.
The Strategic Plan was to;
- Reduce risky behavior among the general, infected, most-at-risk and vulnerable populations.
- Increase and sustain the proportion of eligible PLHIV (people living with HIV) for care and treatment.
- Ensure health systems deliver comprehensive HIV services.
- Ensure HIV mainstreamed in sector-specific policies and sector strategies.
- Get communities and PLHIV networks respond to HIV within their local context.
- Make KNASP III stakeholders aligned and held accountable for results.
ATTITUDES HAVE CHANGED
Unlike the situation just a few years ago when HIV spelt a death sentence to many, people’s mentalities and stereotypes surrounding HIV/AIDS have changed and nowadays victims are not as reticent about their status and are more likely to seek medical help.
PREVENTING MOTHER-TO-CHILD TRANSMISSION (PMTCT)
Currently, as a part of the strategic plans of the KNASP III, there are more than 3,397 health facilities across Kenya offering PMTCT services. It’s mandatory for pregnant women to be tested for HIV and in most cases the spouse is also required to get tested.
CIRCUMCISION AND CONDOMS
Male circumcision and the use of condoms have been shown to reduce the risk of HIV infections but efforts to sensitize Kenyans on the subject have proved problematic. Circumcision is normally done as a boy approaches teenage years hence convincing an adult man to undergo the same is still something most men find embarrassing. Use of condoms especially among the youth and married couples is also not popular.
In 2011 Kenya was reported to have an estimate of 2.5 million people living with HIV and the still high rates of children born with HIV are believed to account for the high infant mortality rate in country.
All that said, Kenya does appear to be making strides in winning the war against HIV/AIDS as the world prepares to mark the World’s Aids Day next Saturday.