Alarm as young people lead in number of HIV infections

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Kenya may not succeed in its quest to fight HIV/AIDS if the current wave of new infections among adolescents and young people is not contained.

The Ministry of Health said that although the number of new HIV infections has dropped significantly, the country has seen a worrying increase in the number of new infections among young people aged 29 and under.

The Chief Executive of the National AIDS Control Council (NACC), Dr Ruth Masha, said statistics show that adolescents and young people aged 29 and under account for more than 61% of all new HIV infections in the world. the country.

“Despite our success, young people are a stumbling block in our quest to end new HIV infections by 2030. Young people aged 29 and under account for at least 61% of all new HIV infections” , said Dr. Masha.

She added, “The progress we have made in mitigating the HIV pandemic in the country will be eroded if we do not stop the rise in HIV infections among young people aged 29 and under.

In developed countries, new HIV infections among young people are very low but in Kenya it is the opposite, says Dr Masha

NACC boss says major contributors to new infections are men who have sex with men, sex workers, sexual gender-based violence (SGBV) leading to pregnancy among teenage girls, drug and alcohol abuse among young people.

On a positive note, the government said the rate of new HIV infections in the country had more than halved in the past 10 years.

“We are proud to report a more than halving of new HIV infections from 75,000 in 2010 to around 32,000 in 2021. We are also reporting a drop in the national HIV prevalence rate to 4.3% in 2021 , down from a peak of 11 percent in the mid-1990s when the disease was first reported in the country,” said Dr. Patrick Amoth

Dr Amoth, acting director general of the Ministry of Health, said there had also been a decline in mother-to-child transmission of HIV from 13.9% to 8.3% in 2021.

He said access to life-saving anti-retroviral treatment (ART) has been improved and is now available at 3,500 health facilities across the country, where more than 1.2 million Kenyans living with the virus can easily access ARVs. .

“These advances resulted in a 68.4% reduction in new HIV infections and therefore a drop in the HIV prevalence rate from 6.04% to 4.3% over the same period. There has been a significant reduction in AIDS-related deaths of 67%, from 58,446 in 2013 to 19,486 deaths in 2021,” Dr Amoth said.

He added, “To improve the sustainability and achievement of universal health care, the government invested 3 billion shillings in the last financial year to support HIV programs. This year, the government doubled its budget allocation to 5.6 billion shillings for the same.

Dr Amoth said Kenya is one of the leading countries in the world on track to meet the targets set for voluntary medical male circumcision.

“The national prevalence of male circumcision has since reached saturation at 91.7% in 2018 and we have now expanded our interventions to male infants and children using modern technology,” noted Dr. Amoth.

In order to further reduce the HIV epidemic in the country, the Kenya HIV Prevention and Treatment Guidelines, 2022 has been launched.

Dr Rose Wafula, from the National AIDS and STI Control Program (Nascop), said mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and trauma are higher among people living with HIV than in those who are not, noting that the Covid19 pandemic has further aggravated the situation.

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