News The African Way

Kenya Sees Dramatic Rise In HIV Infections, Study Shows

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Nairobi – The number of new HIV infections in Kenya is rising faster than any other country in sub-Saharan Africa.

Kenya has been cited as one of the countries with “stubborn” HIV new infections.

Kenya’s rate of new HIV infections has risen steadily over the past decade, more dramatically than in other countries, a study has shown.

Beyond Kenya, the world faces “significant challenges” in ending the Aids epidemic by 2030.

According to the study, more than 1.8 million Kenyans were living with HIV in 2015 and 39 per cent were on antiretroviral therapy drugs to slow the disease’s progression.

The study from the Global Burden of Disease collaborative network, published Tuesday in The Lancet HIV, reveals that the dramatic increase in new infections was undermining efforts to end the Aids epidemic by 2030.

From the study, the number of new HIV infections in Kenya is rising faster than in any other country in sub-Saharan Africa.

Between 2005 and 2015, the number of new HIV cases grew by an average of 7 per cent per year, one of the highest increases in the world.

The number of new infections decreased over the same time period in Rwanda, Somalia, and Uganda, according to the study.

LOWEST ARV COVERAGE

Kenya is also one of the countries with the lowest antiretroviral coverage, at 39 per cent, below the regional average that stands at 43 per cent.

Despite all the high rates of new infections and the rise in the number of people living with HIV, the number of Kenyans dying from the disease has dropped from 120,670 in 2005 to 51,700 in 2015, reveals the study.

“There is [a] need for a more proactive approach in countering new HIV infections in the country. Voluntary testing and treatment is key to avoiding further spread of the virus,” said Nduku Kilonzo, the director of the National Aids Control Council (NACC).

Dr Kilonzo blamed the new infections on the country’s failure to test and counsel adolescents and inadequate knowledge about HIV/Aids.

“In the early 1990s everyone knew what HIV was all about because they were investing significantly in marketing testing and counselling,” she said.

She adds: “Adolescents, who are the most affected groups, are not going for testing.”

She said that in Kenya less than 60 per cent of the population has enough information on HIV/Aids. “We need to review what worked well in the past and invest in it,” she said.

“In the 2015 HIV estimates, we had 72,000 new HIV infections among adults. This was a reduction from the more than 88,000 recorded in 2013; as we make progress; the numbers are still unsustainably high.

“Something to worry about is that of the 72,000 new adult HIV infections recorded in 2015, more than 35,000 or 46 per cent were among adolescents and young people aged between the ages of 15 to 24 years,” she said.

LACK OF FUNDS

Dr Kilonzo said Kenyans depend on projects for HIV prevention and treatments but once the programmes elapse, people are left hanging and this leads to new infections.

“We must fund HIV prevention, care and treatment. Currently, there is no government budget for the same. We need to put systems in place and not just [rely on] projects,” she said

The NACC director also said there is no consistency in what works best.

“We have not been consistent as a country and even global community on what is considered as a treatment target and until we do that at a country level, we will continue to have baseless goals, which means we are headed nowhere,” she said.

Culled from Daily Nation

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