, MOMBASA, Kenya, Dec 1 – First Lady Margaret Kenyatta has called on all Kenyans, irrespective of status in society, to join the fight against HIV/AIDS.
She said the country could not afford to rest while HIV/AIDS continued to wreak havoc on citizens.
“How can we rest when young mothers whose hope of remaining healthy to bring up their children is eroded by a virus that we can control?” she asked.
Speaking at Mbaraki sports grounds in Mombasa County when she led the nation in marking the 25th National World AIDS day whose theme was “getting to zero”, Kenyatta said girls must, particularly, be empowered and safe havens created in institutions of learning to free them from the burden of HIV/AIDS.
The First Lady regretted that women and children continued to bear the brunt of the pandemic despite the progress made in preventing Mother to Child Transmission.
“I note with concern that new HIV infections among girls and women aged 15 to 24 remain depressingly high while by contrast their male peers infection rates are considerably lower,” the First Lady said.
She said it was disturbing that only 38 percent of children born with HIV were accessing lifesaving medication in the country and called for concerted efforts to join campaigns that will scale down the 13,000 new infections among children annually.
“Children are our future; their mothers are its custodians. I wish to join all Kenyans towards a shared vision where no mother or child shall die from preventable causes and a future with zero new HIV infections, zero AIDS related deaths and zero AIDS related stigma,” she said.
The First Lady, at the same time, urged Kenyans to strongly fight the stigma and discrimination associated with HIV/AIDS.
“By doing so, we will help curb the spread of the pandemic that threatens to tear us apart and undermine the fundamental values that families are built on,” the First Lady said.
She cautioned that prevention, treatment and care programs will not be effective if people continued apportioning blame and shame on others.
The First Lady affirmed her commitment to working with all Kenyans to end the AIDS epidemic, saying doing so will allow citizens to be more productive in their lives.
“I urge everyone to join me as champions that will create a new momentum for action to end preventable deaths among women and children and give a new impetus to the fight against HIV,” the First Lady said.
She thanked both local and international development partners who have invested resources and complemented Government’s effort in addressing the epidemic.
Reminding Kenyans that HIV prevalence rate in the country remained high, the First Lady said no effort should be spared in fighting the pandemic.
“We are ranked among the top four countries globally with the highest numbers of people living with HIV/AIDS. This is a reminder that a lot of work still needs to be done,” she stated.
Noting that an estimated 44 percent of the new infections occur within stable relationships, the First Lady said achievement of Vision 2030 goals will be jeopardized if the scourge is not effectively confronted.
The First Lady took the opportunity to officially launch a framework that will guide her office to address HIV, maternal and child health.
She thanked Mombasa County Government for hosting the event and the Ministry of Health, the National AIDS Control Council, and the National AIDS and STI Control program for their leadership in the fight against the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho said the choice of Mombasa to start the Zero program on HIV/AIDS has given his county the impetus to scale up the fight against the scourge.
He disclosed that his county is in the process of rolling out an integrated program that will fully engage all stakeholders in curbing the spread of AIDS.
United States Ambassador Robert Godec lauded the existing partnership between Kenya and his Government in combating the disease.
He disclosed that to date the United States Government has spent over 2.5 billion dollars in HIV/AIDS programs in Kenya.
He also commended President Kenyatta and the First Lady for playing a leading role in the war against AIDS.
On September 10, a new survey by the National AIDS and STI Control Programme (NASCOP) indicated that 5.6 percent of adults in Kenya, an estimated 1.2 million people are living with HIV/AIDS compared to 2007, when the prevalence was 7.2 percent.
Those surveyed were between 15 to 64 years.
The report further shows more women than men are infected with HIV at 6.9 percent for women and 4.4 percent for men.
It also indicates that there is higher prevalence of the killer disease in urban areas than rural areas at 6.5 percent and 5.1 percent respectively.