, NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 18 – At least one million Kenyans and refugees will benefit from a Sh1.7 billion Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD) regional programme on HIV/AIDS targeting vulnerable populations.
IGAD Executive Secretary Mahboub Maalim said on Thursday that the four-year programme brought together six member countries of the regional organisation to reach cross-border and mobile populations in areas classified as hot spots.
“We have enough resources and enough treatment for everybody who accesses services at the areas where these regional services are offered and we also think because of the differences in our systems and bureaucracies in different member States, the ministers in charge of health and/or HIV/AIDS are going to accept to undertake a programme that will harmonise some of these bureaucracies,” Mr Maalim said.
He said these populations who included refugees, pastoralists, truck drivers, internally displaced persons and people who live on border areas have been left out in national HIV/AIDS programmes and so remain vulnerable.
“There is evidence to show that a lot of these people are not adequately planned for in national programmes and now have an opportunity to access HIV/AIDS care and treatment and all other services that are available in any member state,” he told Journalists at the sidelines of the 4th IGAD Council of Ministers meeting on HIV/AIDS.
The member states of the programme are Djibouti, Ethiopia, North and South Sudan, Uganda, Somalia and Kenya.
Mr Maalim said IGAD wanted the project to continue even after the lapse of the four years and so were sensitising member states to also put in resources for it.
“There will be a system that will be agreed upon by the member States in our policy organ meetings… We do not all have similar GDP’s (Gross Domestic Product) and similar growth in the member states so it will vary depending on the GDP and the strength of each country,” he said.
National Aids Control Council (NACC) Director Alloys Orago said the hotspots in Kenya were the entire population around Malaba, Lokichogio and Taita Taveta which are border regions.
“We are also targeting the population within the refugee camp in Dadaab which is about 56,000 and then we have the surrounding community approximately made up of 120,000 people,” Professor Orago said.
He said they hoped to increase the number of people benefiting to about three million in the second phase of the programme where governments were expected to take over.
“In fact the government has committed to increase resources by 10 percent every year in the next five years so that is substantial and will ensure when the government takes over the programme there will be enough financial and human resource capacity,” he said.
Special Programmes Minister Naomi Shaban said the continued challenges that the region faced like drought, hunger, civil strife and poverty put majority of the population at risk of HIV infection hence the need to scale up interventions.
“The prevalence rates in the region ranges from 0.2 percent to as high as 14 percent among certain specific populations,” Dr Shaban said.
“Although significant achievements have been made in the areas of reduction of prevalence in the recent past, there still remains real task in maintaining the vigor for a downward trend,” she added.