NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 12 – Kenya unveiled a new strategy to combat the HIV/AIDS scourge that aims to increase access to HIV-related services.
If the four-year plan is implemented as scheduled, it would ensure all persons living with HIV have access to treatment and care services, prevent new infections, reduce opportunistic infections and mitigate the effects of the disease on Kenyans.
While launching the third Kenya AIDS Strategic Plan on Tuesday, Prime Minister Raila Odinga said the government would keep increasing resources to HIV/AIDS services and especially prevention programmes.
“Out of this strategic plan, I see us creating a Kenya in which citizens live longer, happier and more productive lives. I see a Kenya where resources are better targeted towards fostering good health and a Kenya where all citizens have easy access to high quality health services,” the PM said.
Mr Odinga noted that HIV/AIDS was a lifestyle disease that could be stopped if people chose lifestyles which did not expose them to infection.
“We can only win this war if we turn off the tap of new infections,” he said.
National Aids Control Council Director Professor Alloys Orago said the latest plan was formulated after the realisation that HIV/AIDS services were not accessible as they should be.
“We realised that only 36 percent of eligible adults knew their HIV status despite the presence of 100,000 VCT (Voluntary Counseling and Testing Centres) sites countrywide and only 54 percent of those who needed anti-retroviral therapy were actually being reached,” Professor Orago said.
He further stated that new HIV infections per year were still extremely high standing at 132,000 in adults and 34,000 in children. He said HIV services were still concentrated in urban areas whereas 70 percent of people living with HIV/AIDS in Kenya lived in rural areas.
“This evidence suggested a need to redesign our programme implementation modalities and also address systems to strengthen issues that enhance the delivery of services towards universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support,” he said.
Public Health Minister Beth Mugo said that over 100,000 HIV positive women got pregnant every year and were able to access HIV services.
“Last year, out of 1.2 million pregnant women, 90 percent were tested for HIV and those found HIV positive were able to access interventions for preventing mother-to-child transmission,” she said.
She said that every three out of five people living with HIV in Kenya were women hence the need to address the gender gap as well.
“It is therefore very clear that the test of leadership on HIV/AIDS must be what we do to invest in women and girls so as to reduce their vulnerability which we know is mainly poverty,” the Public Health Minister said.