, NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 23 – Fifty year old Josephine Akanga and 43 year old Alfayo Nyaemo are names that feature in the government’s records of people living with HIV in Kenya.
The two work for Unilever as tea pickers in Kericho and are among the few Kenyans who receive the necessary support from their employer to keep working and boost their productivity.
And at the rate that employers lose a valuable workforce to HIV/AIDS related complications, employers are being asked to ensure that such workers get the attention they need.
Kenya AIDS Control Programme Researcher Joshua Kimani argued that the number of sex workers who had been losing their lives to HIV/AIDS has drastically gone down over the years due to proper education and access to healthcare.
“We used to lose about 70 sex workers every year in the late 1990s and early 2000s and because of the antiretroviral programme and care and treatment programme, this year I have only lost three,” he observed.
“So I can actually attest that the HIV control programme and treatment is actually working,” he added.
HIV and AIDS wellness coordinator at Unilever in Kericho Aaron Kimetto argued there was need for the private sector to help bridge the gap left by government interventions so as to reduce the number of new infections and increase the production capacity.
Akanga and Nyaemo have been living with HIV for the last 15 years, when being diagnosed with the condition amounted to a death sentence.
“In most cases when they become sick they would come to our health facility and in the 1990s the cost of managing these people was a bit high so there was a big need for the company to have an intervention,” he said.
Kenyans were also reminded to keep getting screened for HIV/AIDS.
Kimani cited the need for the country to get adequate interventions to fight the scourge that a large number of Kenyans had never been tested for the condition despite the government’s bid to revamp its control.
He also noted that the rates of new infections among sex workers in the country remain high with 2.2 percent of female sex workers and 11.8 percent of male sex workers getting HIV every year.
“Because of the fear of testing many people are not coming out. I’m sure that it is only 42 percent of the men in this room have been tested for HIV and maybe 55 percent of the women because they must go through the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmissions (PMTCT) programme,” he argued.
Kimani added that there was a low coverage of individuals who should be in the country’s anti-retroviral programme, owning to the fact that most people have not been screened for HIV/AIDS.
He argued that these statistics were also hampering the country’s fight against HIV/AIDS.
“I take care of 18,000 sex workers in Nairobi and we have reached about 26,000 sex workers but the estimated number of sex workers in Nairobi is about 40,000 so I have barely reached about 60 percent and that’s where the problem is because we have not reached everybody,” he said.
Meanwhile Nyanza Province has projected to reduce mother to child HIV transmission by 5 percent by the year 2015.
Provincial Director of Public Health Jackson Kioko said the current transmission rate in the province stood at 9.4 percent.
He said there were interventions that are aimed at reducing the transmission by 50 percent to bring the figure down to about 4.2 percent.
Speaking in Kisumu when he launched a three day campaign dubbed Kata Shauri in the province, Kioko said the campaign would create awareness and focus on the need to eliminate mother to child transmission of HIV.