NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 22 – “If I were you I wouldn’t wash my hand the whole day, I’d walk like this (arm extended out),” Agnes Ndungu said in jest to representatives of 15 Community Based Organisations who shook US Deputy Chief of Mission to Kenya Paul Sutphin’s hand on Friday after signing agreements that would see them receive grants totalling up to Sh15 million from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) — the cause for merriment.
When Joseph Onditi shook Sutphin’s hand, he informed him that he had travelled the whole night from Migori just to make it to the US Embassy in Nairobi for the signing ceremony and so he was “minus usingizi (sleep).”
Onditi is the Coordinator of the Migori Self-Help group of Oruba village; a group made up of those left widowed by AIDS, are infected or left to care for children orphaned by the disease.
“At first we came together to encourage each other because stigma is a real problem,” he told Capital FM News.
Now with the cash injection, the group, he said, plans to set up green houses and plant tomatoes for sale in order to raise school fees for the orphaned they care for as well as improve their own lot. It’s evident from Onditi’s torn collar and missing teeth, he’s not what you’d call well-to-do.
Around the country are many like Onditi, barely able to meet their everyday needs, who rely on the US government’s charity for their very survival.
“The United States has been a strong and committed partner in the fight against HIV/AIDS. In Kenya, the US contributes about 80 percent of the total HIV response funding in Kenya. PEPFAR will provide $500 million in funding in Kenya alone. It will keep by the end of the year more than one million Kenyans alive on Anti-Retroviral Therapy drugs,” Sutphin said at the CBO engagement Friday.
That Sh50 billion, PEPFAR Country Coordinator Katherine Perry told Capital FM News, would be the highest allocation of any country in the world in the 2017 financial year starting October.
The news came just three days after a Global Burden of Disease Study 2015, published in the Lancet, showed an increase in new HIV infections in the last 10 years.
“GBD 2015 estimates an increase in numbers of new infections, whereas UNAIDS 2014 predicts a decline. The biggest difference is in Kenya, where results from GBD 2015 show an increase in annual new infections from 60,000 in 2005, to 146,700 in 2014, whereas UNAIDS shows a decrease from 73,000 to 56,000 during the same period,” the report reads.
The news also came a week after the Ministry of Health launched a campaign aimed at raising awareness that ARTs would be freely available at public health facilities to all who test HIV positive and not only to those with a CD4 count of 500 and below as was the case previously.
The Ministry estimates that out of the 1.5 million infected persons in the country, 900,000 are on treatment, but even that data, the GBD report challenged.
“Evidence from countries where survey data for use of ART are available, such as Kenya, suggests that national assessments of numbers of people on ART collated by UNAIDS might be too high.”