Where We Are: 30 Years Since Kenya Documented The First HIV…
By Catherine Nyambura
Change is said to be the only permanent thing in the world. It comes in many forms and we have learnt to deal with it. However, when the HIV epidemic hit, the world was almost brought to its knees. We are now “celebrating” 30 years of HIV/AIDS in Kenya. Although it is 30 years since the first case was officially documented in Kenya, a lot of facts about the deadly pandemic are still greatly misunderstood. We have dealt with the myths of witchcraft and all manners of farfetched explanations as to why the HIV/AIDS scourge had befallen us, including entertaining thoughts such as; it was a curse from God, a biological weapon from the West and a zoonotic phenomenon (transmitted to human from animals)gotten out of control. That aside, we must congratulate the world for dealing with the epidemic commendably, educating the masses about the basics of the Virus, how it transmitted, how to prevent new infections and reinfections including how to live with those who are positive
A trail in its wake
The virus has left a trail of orphans, people living positively and a lot of lessons in its wake. Statistics from the Kenya AIDS Indicator Survey (2012) confirm that approximately 1.2million people live with the virus in the East African country. The survey further points out that Kenya’s prevalence rate stands at 5.6 percent. This is staged against the backdrop of 35million people globally, according to UNAIDS. At this point, it would suffice to point out that the HIV virus, like many epidemics, has disproportionately affected more women than men, especially in Africa.
In Kenya we have 906,948 females living with HIV against 685,394 males; a disparity that seems to reinforce the larger gender disparities and inequalities in Kenya. The feminine face seems to further seek youthfulness quite successfully with the probability of infection higher among young women aged 15‐24 years compared to men of the same age. There is, however, good news in that regard with the prevalence among young women having declined from 5.9 percent in 2003 to 3.0 percent in 2012 and that of young men remaining slightly stable at 1.1 percent to 1.5 percent.
Nakuru Joins the world to end AIDS
Nakuru County is in the Kenyan Rift Valley and has not been left behind in the efforts to fight the HIV epidemic. The HIV prevalence in Nakuru is 5.6% which corresponds the national prevalence according to County profile statistics by UNAIDS and the National Aids Control Council. The National Aids Control Council Office and the Ministry of Health have continuously partnered with the Civil Society Organizations to advocate for counseling and testing and treatment for those living positively. The Ministry of Health has worked to put in place comprehensive care centers in all major healthcare centers which provide integrated services and Management of PLHIV. There are a total of 250 ART sites in the county according to the Ministry of Health reports. The County government has also invested in the fight against HIV by allocating 1 million shillings(11500USD) per Sub County towards the fight against HIV which facilitates reduced reliance on donor funding and guarantees treatment for those living with the virus and activities to enhance testing amongst citizens which is first step towards zero.
The World AIDS Day provides an opportunity for countries and various jurisdictions to celebrate gains made towards the fight against HIV, reinforce efforts towards the fight against the epidemic and contextualize global efforts. The global goal is to end AIDS by 2030, which presents a challenge and an opportunity for more consolidated efforts and execution of the shared vision. We have achieved a lot but more needs to be done especially in ensuring young people, a demographic that is disproportionately affected by the epidemic are meaningfully engaged in the fight against HIV. The engagement should ensure that youth participate in conceptualization, design, implementation and monitoring of health programs and policies at all levels.
In Nakuru County, World Aids Day preparations have been inclusive with all stakeholders brought on board. The planning committee consisted of civil society organizations, various stakeholders working with HIV/AIDS and co-chaired by the ministry of health and the National Aids Control Council. Activities to mark the day include; colorful procession on the main street, Kenyatta Avenue, in Nakuru guided by a band, scouts and participating organizations, Counseling and Testing drives both prior to the day and on the actual day at the grounds where the celebrations will be held, entertainment by various performing groups, exhibitions and vibrant social media activities coordinated by Dandelion Kenya in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and NACC.
It is quite reassuring when stakeholders both from governmental and non-governmental entities partner to achieve a common goal and build consensus on a shared vision. In this case the common goal and shared vision is the fight against AIDS and the burning desire to get to zero. Zero new infections, zero Aids related deaths and zero stigma and discrimination.
Dandelion Kenya is honored to be part of this great initiative.