NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 27 – New HIV/AIDS infections among adolescents and young people have increased by 17 per cent even as the country recorded a general decline of 19 per cent in new infections between the year 2013 and 2015.
Speaking during the launch of the Kenya AIDS Response Progressive Report on Thursday, National AIDS Control Council (NACC) Director Dr Nduku Kilonzo pointed out that young people (15-24 years) contributed 51 per cent in new infections in the year 2015, a figure that has risen from 21 per cent recorded in 2013.
According to the report there were 35,776 new infections recorded among the group in 2015 bringing the total of young people living with HIV to 268,586. The report further indicates that a whooping 3,853 youths died of HIV.
An average of 97 young people are said to be infected on a daily basis.
“We haven’t done among adolescent and young people,” said Kilonzo. “We can do a quick arithmetic and we can tell that within the 24 hours of today, we’d have had 4-5 infections for each hour we have sat here.”
Speaking to Capital FM News, World Health Organization (WHO) Representative Dr Rudi Eggers urged stakeholders to encourage HIV testing to further reduce the viral load.
“I think we should continue doing what we’re doing – finding people that are HIV positive, encouraging the young people to be tested and then going into treatment,” said Eggers.
Although the country recorded a decline of 19 per cent in new infections, women and girls have remained the hardest hit by the epidemic with 39,868 new infections being recorded annually compared to 31,167 new infections among their male counterparts.
With the national HIV prevalence standing at 5.9 per cent, the prevalence among women has been pegged at 6.3 per cent compared with 5.5 per cent among men of the same age group.
The chairlady of Muslim Women Living with HIV in Kenya Rukia Ahmed noted that retrogressive cultural practices had put women at a disadvantage over their male counterparts challenging stakeholders to provide information especially to rural communities.
“Distribution and dissemination of the report must target people living with HIV,” commented Rukia. “We’re really happy about the report and we need to launch this countrywide.”
HIV prevalence among sex workers, men having sex with fellow men and people who inject themselves with drugs was recorded at 29.3, 18.2 and 18.3 per cent respectively.
Generally though, people living with HIV have been concentrated between ages 15 and 59. Children between 0-14 years and older people above the age of sixty recorded the least number of people infected.
The report however noted a sharp decline in sexual transmissions where new infections declined by 32 per cent. Mother-to-child infections also reduced by a significant 50 percent, an achievement attributed to access to medical services by expectant and lactating mothers.
The nation has also achieved a 49 per cent decrease in new infections among children with 7 counties having achieved a less than five per cent mother-to-child transmission target. The counties include Nairobi, Nyeri, Kiambu, Nandi, Nakuru, Elgeyo Marakwet and Bungoma.
“Overall, 24 counties reduced HIV infections among children with Kisii, Nyamira and Migori counties being top three,” read part of the report.
Infections among children however increased by over a hundred fold in 9 counties namely; Kitui, Kwale, Kilifi, Marsabit, Garissa, Mandera, Lamu, Tana River and Wajir.
The country has also seen an increase in the number of people living with HIV on antiretroviral treatment with indicators cupping access to ARV’s at 67 per cent. Landmark strides were also made TB deaths among people living with HIV 26.4 per cent of HIV infected persons said to have received treatment.
According to the report Nairobi and Mombasa cities increased their new infections by more than 50% (from 4,707 in 2013 to 7,145 in 2015) even as Busia, Bungoma, Kakamega and Vihiga counties recorded an increase in HIV infections by more than a thousand fold.
Kenya has however achieved a tremendous 50 per cent reduction in HIV stigma and discrimination which has largely been attributed to the “Sasa Hivi Campaign” spearheaded by President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Stigmatization levels are however said to be very high in Garissa, Mandera and Wajir counties at 60.2 per cent. Homa Bay, Kericho, Kisii, Kisumu, Migori, Nyamira and Siaya counties have been credited for having the least stigmatization levels at 34.5 per cent.