NAIROBI, July 29 – Eighty percent of Kenyans infected with the HIV virus are unaware of their status, according to a new survey on HIV/AIDS prevalence in the country.,
The shocking statistics, which were released on Tuesday, translate into four in every five adult Kenyans being afraid to know their status.
The 2007 Kenya AIDS Indicator Survey also showed that nearly two-thirds of the Kenyan population have never tested for HIV and therefore could not access readily available medical services.
While launching the report, the Head of the National Aids Control Programme, Dr Ibrahim Mohamed, said the most common reason for not testing was low perception of risks where people assumed that they were not infected.
“16 percent did not want to know their test results or were afraid others would know the results, 14 percent were unaware of the test for HIV or where to get tested and five percent cited long distances to testing centres as a major barrier,” he stated.
The report also indicated that 180,000 HIV-infected Kenyans who required anti-retroviral treatment were still not accessing it.
Nyanza province recorded the highest HIV prevalence rate at 15.3 percent followed by Nairobi at nine percent.
Coast province and Rift Valley recorded 7.9 percent and seven percent respectively, while North Eastern was the lowest at one percent.
Dr Mohammed also noted that the HIV prevalence among uncircumcised males was more than three times higher than among those who are circumcised.
“This study corroborates the finding of the multi-sectoral study trial that was conducted in Kisumu, Uganda and South Africa, which showed that circumcision reduces the chances of getting HIV infection by over 50 percent,” he said.
The doctor however cautioned that circumcision alone was not a preventive measure.
Women also recorded the highest prevalence rate at 8.7 percent, compared to men at 5.6 percent.
Public Health Minister Beth Mugo noted that the prevalence rates may not have dropped as significantly and widely as reported in recent years.
“We have made notable progress. However HIV/AIDS rates among our families and communities remain unacceptably high and the impact severe. As a nation we must therefore continue to invest in HIV prevention programmes,” she said.
Prime Minister Raila Odinga reaffirmed the government’s commitment to step up response initiatives to prevent new infections.
“This survey provides the most accurate, current and comprehensive picture ever of the epidemic in Kenya. It shows that the HIV prevalence rate has increased from 6.7 percent in 2003 to 7.4 percent in 2007 in people between the ages of 15 and 64. This means that 1.4 million adults are living with HIV/AIDS,” the Premier said.
The survey is the first national, population-based survey of HIV rates in the country since 2003.
Nearly 10,000 households and 19,000 Kenyans participated in the survey from August to December 2007.