HIV in­fec­tions war shifts to girls aged 15 to 24 years

Business Daily (Kenya) - - FRONT PAGE - Na­sibo Ka­bale kna­[email protected]­tion­

Kenya’s quest to stop the spread of HIV is fac­ing a new de­mo­graph­ics chal­lenge af­ter it was found that girls aged between 15 and 24 now ac­count for the high­est num­ber of new in­fec­tions. The 2018 Kenya Aids Re­sponse Progress Re­port shows that young women aged between 15 and 24 now ac­count for one third of the 44,789 new HIV adult in­fec­tions.

The Na­tional Aids Con­trol Coun­cil (NACC) re­port shows that to­tal new in­fec­tions stand at 52,767 an­nu­ally, in­clud­ing 7,978 chil­dren, mean­ing 14,929 girls aged between 15 and 24 were in­fected in 2017 alone.

Joshua Gi­tonga the head of Mon­i­tor­ing and Eval­u­a­tion at NACC, reck­ons the rapid ero­sion of moral and so­cial skills among the af­fected age group is to blame for the wild spread, es­pe­cially in the cities where young women are dat­ing older men for fi­nan­cial gain.

“Trans-gen­er­a­tional sex that hap­pens when girls go for older part­ners is some­thing that can­not be over­looked,” he said.

Among young peo­ple between 15 and 24 years, Nairobi had the high­est num­ber of new in­fec­tions at 2,587 fol­lowed by Homa Bay (1,852), Si­aya (1,641), Kisu-

mu (1,630) and Mig­ori (1,143).

Mr Gi­tonga said the youth, es­pe­cially young fe­males, are not prop­erly em­pow­ered to use avail­able pre­ven­tion meth­ods.

“This tar­get group lacks com­pre­hen­sive knowl­edge of HIV and do not have ac­cess to pre­ven­tion meth­ods be­cause the ma­jor­ity rely on guardians for all their health is­sues,” said Mr Gi­tonga.

Early sex­ual ac­tiv­ity is known to in­crease the pe­riod of time ado­les­cents are ex­posed to the risk of sex­u­ally trans­mit­ted in­fec­tions or un­in­tended preg­nan­cies.

The re­port, which also col­lates data among chil­dren and adults, says that new in­fec­tions among those aged 15 years dropped from 48,108 in 2016 to 44,789 in 2017.

New in­fec­tions among fe­males are at 27,233 while that of males stand at 17,556.

Nairobi (2,587), Homa Bay (1,852), Si­aya (1,641), Kisumu (1,630), Mig­ori (1,143), Ki­ambu (730), Kakamega (596) and Mom­basa (562), make the list of coun­ties where the rate of in­fec­tion is high­est and to­gether ac­count for 61 per­cent of all new in­fec­tions among youth aged between 15 and 24 years.

Chil­dren aged be­low 14 years con­sti­tute 7,978 of new in­fec­tions, a slight in­crease from 7,105 in 2016. Kenya aims to re­duce HIV preva­lence among this age group to five per­cent of to­tal new in­fec­tions.

Coun­ties with high HIV in­fec­tions among chil­dren aged be­low 14 are Homa Bay (700), Nairobi (660), Si­aya (620), Kisumu (616), Kakamega (437), Mig­ori (432), Nakuru (325), and Bu­sia (318).

In ab­so­lute num­bers, new HIV in­fec­tions among all age groups de­clined from 77,200 in 2010 to 52,800 in 2017, in­di­cat­ing a 32 per­cent de­cline in the num­ber of new an­nual HIV in­fec­tions at the na­tional level in spite of pop­u­la­tion growth.

NACC says the im­prove­ment is the re­sult of in­creased and bet­ter cam­paigns fol­low­ing the in­crease in to­tal ex­pen­di­ture from Sh121 bil­lion in 2016/2017 from Sh73 bil­lion in 2015/2016.

There was also a de­cline in the to­tal num­ber of peo­ple liv­ing with HIV (PLHIV) in Kenya -- es­ti­mated at 1.5 mil­lion in 2017 -- in­clud­ing 105,200 chil­dren. Mr Gi­tonga said that al­though the rate of new in­fec­tions has been fall­ing in re­cent years it is still too slow.

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