NAIROBI, KENYA, Feb 17 – President Uhuru Kenyatta on Tuesday gave the Ministries of Health and Education a year to ensure all HIV positive children in the country get on Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART).
He said it was unacceptable for 42 percent of over 140,000 adolescents living with HIV not to be on ART as it goes against the International Convention on Children’s Rights and the Kenyan Constitution which guarantees healthcare for all.
“Come up and tell me what kind of programme you are going to put in place within the next year to ensure that 42 percent of children who do not have access to anti-retrovirals will be put on this programme,” he directed.
He also directed the Ministry of Education to ensure children living with the HIV virus are not stigmatised in schools and can access information on how to “live positively,” with the virus.
“We have to do something to change our own attitude even in our schools. And I would urge the Ministry of Education to look at your own curriculum and look at your own teachers and see how you can get them engaged so they can also engage those of our young people living with this disease in a positive manner,” he said.
President Kenyatta gave the directive in response to a challenge thrown to him by an 11-year-old living with HIV.
“I would be made to sit at the back of the class by my teacher. There’s a time they denied me the right to participate in the diabetes walk because they feared I was too weak despite raising enough money for two T-Shirts and despite the fact that I felt capable. I had to sleep in the bus. Our schools need to know that HIV is not a death sentence. That with the right food and drugs you can live like any other person. I’m lucky my mother is so enlightened,” he testified to President Kenyatta at the launch of the #EndAdolescentAIDS campaign on Tuesday.
There are currently 262,403 Kenyans between the ages of 15 and 24 living with HIV; 16 percent of the total population. In 2014, close to 10,000 of them succumbed to the virus.
This age bracket also accounts for 29 percent of new HIV infections in the country with a ratio of four female infections for each male between the ages of 17 and 24.
But despite them being at high risk for infection, only 23.5 percent of them know their HIV status.
And in support of UNICEF, UNFPA, UNAIDS, PEPFAR and the Global Fund’s joint #EndAdolescentAIDS campaign, President Kenyatta has pledged to increase his government’s budget for HIV related services