HIV infections still high despite progress
The latest Ministry of Health figures on HIV and Aids indicate that 1.6 million Kenyans are infected with the virus.
Meanwhile, despite statements by the National Aids Control Council (NACC) that the prevalence of HIV in the country has gone down over the last five years, Kenya has the fourth highest number of HIV infections in the world, according to the World Health Organisation.
South Africa leads with a prevalence of 5.6 million, followed by Nigeria with a prevalence of 3.3 million people and India with 2.4 million people with HIV, according to the joint United Nations Programme on HIV/Aids (UNAids).
In Kenya, five counties accounted for half of all new adult infections in 2013. They are: Homa Bay (12,280), Kisumu (10,350), Siaya (9870), Migori (6,790) and Kisii (4,890).
According to reports, six out of every 100 Kenyans are infected with the virus, meaning the prevalence stands at 6 per cent.
HIV prevalence peaked in 1996, with 10.5 per cent of Kenyans having been infected. By 2012, the figure had fallen to 6.1 per cent, due mainly to the rapid scaling up of antiretroviral treatment (ART).
“Out of the 1.6 million people living with HIV, 815,630 are women aged 15 years and above. They account for 58 per cent of all the HIV positive people,” the National HIV estimates released in August revealed.
And of the total infected population, 12 per cent or 191,840 are children under 15. These children were most likely born with the virus and have been on antiretroviral therapy since birth.
The figures also indicate that 58,465 people died of Aids-related causes in 2013, compared to 167,000 in 2003.
The Ministry of Health, in its HIV estimates report, said that the drastic reduction in HIV deaths was due to increased antiretroviral intake, as well as a reduction in infection rates and stigma.
It also notes an increase in the number of people using condoms over the years.
“A hundred and eighty million condoms were distributed in Kenya for free in 2013. In 2004, 10 million condoms were being distributed,” the report says.
The government began actively promoting condom use only in 2001, and that year, it announced intentions to import 300 million condoms by the end of 2002. Since then, condom distribution has been scaled up rapidly.
At the time the report was compiled, 760,000 people infected with HIV needed antiretroviral treatment.
The number of adults who need ART reached 213,000 in 2005 and is estimated to have reached 760,000 in 2013. During the same period, the need for ART among children rose from 103,000 to 141,610.
Kenya is estimated to be spending Sh19,040 a year on providing ARVs to one person suffering from HIV.
The number of people above 15 who get infected with HIV every year has declined by 15 per cent, compared to 2000. NACC records indicate that there were 105,000 new infections in 2000, while 88,620 new infections occurred in 2013. Among children, a decline was noted from 44,000 in 2000 to 12,940 in 2013.
Meanwhile, 79,000 pregnant women required prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) intervention and care in 2013, up from 92,000 in 2005.
The health ministry attributed the high number of pregnant women seeking treatment to awareness of PMTCT service and its benefits, as well as the availability of PMTCT clinics in several health facilities in the country.
The council further estimates that since the intense campaign on antiretroviral intake in 2005, some 380,000 lives have been saved.
According to the World Health Organisation, (WHO) female sex workers are 14 times more likely than other women to have HIV and almost 50 times more likely than other adults to have HIV. Men having sex with men are 19 times more likely to have HIV than the general population.
On opportunistic infections, the Centre for Disease Control, (CDC) estimates that half of all patients suffering from tuberculosis are HIV-positive.
The situation is attributed to the low immunity levels in HIV patients, which makes them vulnerable to tuberculosis, pneumonia, Hepatitis B and C and cancers.