NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 30 – The United States government has vowed to sustain efforts in the fight against HIV/AIDS in Kenya through the provision of lifesaving treatment.
US Ambassador Robert Godec says over one million people had been put under treatment through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief initiative up from 8,000 when the program was launched 15 years ago.
“When the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) was launched, only 8,000 Kenyans were on HIV treatment. Through partnerships and data driven investments, PEPFAR Kenya now supports more than one million people on lifesaving treatment across the country,” he said.
Godec said the program is also aimed at creating awareness to completely do away with stigmatisation so that many people can come out and live confidently.
“It is very critical that everyone understands this disease and that those with it are people running normal life who should be given equal opportunities and shouldn’t be treated different,” he added.
He was speaking at the Kibera AMREF Health Centre which is one of the first sites that was established to offer free treatment.
Even as Kenya joins the rest of the world on December 1 this year, the gains that have been made in the fight against HIV/AIDS cannot be ignored.
Tamu Daniel who is the PEPFAR coordinator in the country says the transformation and the huge progress in the fight against AIDS has been made possible through American generosity and partnerships.
“PEPFAR has been a success story in Kenya, death and despair has been replaced by life and hope,” she said.
She said people can now live positively and take care of their families as opposed to the period between 1980 and late 1990s when the disease was like a death sentence.
Winnie Nzioka a health provider in charge of the Kibera AMREF Health Centre recalls how difficult it was to get people take a HIV test back in 2003 due to stigmatisation and also because they had to take the blood samples to KEMRI for testing.
“This gave us and our clients a lot of anxiety; it took too long,” said Nzioka.
Today, the test is done within few minutes and treatment process can begin immediately if one is found to be infected.
Nzioka who is also a midwife recalls how nothing could be done to positive pregnant mothers as interventions to prevent transmission had not been introduced.
“We are very happy with the PEPFAR intervention because positive mothers can now deliver HIV free babies,” she said.
She noted progress in the eradication of mother to child infection which she says it now stands at 2.8 per cent this year from 3.6 per cent last year.
In Kenya, HIV/AIDS was declared a national disaster in 1999 by then President Daniel arap Moi, 15 years after the first person was diagnosed with the HIV in 1984.
HIV related deaths between 1980 and 2004 were reported to be very high especially in sub-Saharan Africa.
This has however dropped because ARVs are able to suppress viral replication to minimum levels hence boosting the immune system against opportunistic diseases.