In the heart of East Africa, Kenya grapples with an unyielding adversary: HIV. As Health Cabinet Secretary Susan Nakhumicha discloses, 1.4 million Kenyans are living with the virus. Remarkably, however, 96% of them are in treatment. The revelation came during the World AIDS Day commemoration in Meru County, a region grappling with a significant HIV burden.
Addressing the HIV Epidemic
Amid the sobering statistics, Nakhumicha underscored the government's unwavering commitment to combat HIV/AIDS. A central pillar of this initiative is the newly established Social Health Authority (SHA). Its mandate is clear: to deliver Universal Health Coverage without exclusions, a lifeline even for children born with congenital diseases.
The Scope of the Epidemic
According to the National Syndemic Diseases Control Council (NSDCC), a daunting 7,869 children aged 0-4 live with HIV in Kenya. The country witnessed 22,154 new infections last year, dispersed among children, women, and men. Kisumu County tops the charts in HIV prevalence, followed by Nairobi, Homabay, among others. Nairobi also leads in new infections, with Kenya reporting a total of 3,244 new cases weekly.
Progress Amid Challenges
Despite these high numbers, there's a silver lining. New HIV infections among children have decreased by 65% in the past decade, and by 80% among young adults aged 15 and above. AIDS-related deaths in the country tallied up to 18,473 in 2022, a figure that resonates with the reality of the epidemic. High-risk groups, including sex workers, men who have sex with men, and those who inject drugs, bear the brunt of the HIV prevalence.
Yet, amid the challenges, there are signs of progress. A cumulative increase of 14% in condom use from 2013 to 2022 signals advancements in preventive measures. As the battle against HIV/AIDS in Kenya continues, the theme of this year's World AIDS Day, 'Let Communities Lead,' underscores the paramount role of community-led responses in this fight.