HIV and AIDS: What story do the numbers tell?

A woman queues during the launch of the new single dose anti-AIDs drug.

Photo credit: AFP

What you need to know:

  1. Among adults aged 15-24 years, the number of HIV infections now stands at 145,142, while new HIV infections recorded stand at 7,307.
  2. Currently, 348,408 Kenyan men and 807,576 women are on ARVs.

This year, data released by the National Syndemic Diseases Control Council (NSDCC) showed that the number of HIV infections among adolescents aged 10 to 19 currently stands at 88,853, with 3,244 young people in this category contracting the virus.

The NSDCC explained that although the overall number of new HIV infections in the country has decreased by 12,286 from 34,540 in 2021 to 22,154 in 2022, they continue to observe an increase in the number of young people contracting the virus based on statistics from those who actually test.

According to the NSDCC, their findings also show that the number of people living with the virus fell by 59,483 from 1,437,267 last year to 1,377,784 this year.

"The number of deaths decreased by 3,900 from 22,373 to 18,473, while HIV prevalence among women was 5.3 per cent and among men 2.6 per cent," NSDCC CEO Dr Ruth Laibon-Masha told the Nation in an interview, highlighting that the number of Kenyans on antiretroviral therapy treatment increased by 175,488 from 1,122,334 to 1,297,822.

"Nyanza, Western and Coast regions continue to lead in the number of positive cases.

"Among adults aged 15-24 years, the number of HIV infections now stands at 145,142, while new HIV infections recorded stand at 7,307," NSDCC said, adding that the total number of children orphaned by HIV/AIDS stands at 592,374, with 59,624 children currently on antiretroviral (ARV) treatment.

"Currently, 348,408 Kenyan men and 807,576 women are on ARVs".

That's why, according to Health CS Susan Nakhumicha, Kenya is committed to being at the forefront of ending HIV and AIDS among children and adolescents by 2030, and will prioritise the use of digital technologies to ensure access to treatment and care. 

The Kenyan government is committed to using digital technology in providing access to universal testing and treatment for all children and adolescents living with HIV," she said, adding that ring fencing budgets for ending AIDS among children and monitoring the progress of the same will help in reducing stigma.

 But why is HIV testing so important, and who exactly should be tested?

 The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 should be tested for HIV at least once as part of routine health care. "People should get tested more often if they have had more than one sex partner or are having sex with someone whose sexual history they don't know. Some sexually active gay and bisexual men may benefit from more frequent testing (e.g., every 3 to 6 months)," the CDC notes.

The experts explain that knowing your HIV status gives you powerful information to help you take steps to keep you and your partner(s) healthy.

"If you test positive, you can be linked to HIV care to start treatment with HIV medicines as soon as possible. People with HIV who take their HIV medicines as prescribed can live long and healthy lives. There's also an important prevention benefit. If you take your HIV medicines as prescribed and achieve and maintain an undetectable viral load, you will not be able to transmit HIV to an HIV-negative partner through sex," they stress, while reminding you that if you test negative, there are more prevention tools available today to prevent HIV than ever before.

"If you're pregnant, you should be tested for HIV so that you can start treatment if you're HIV-positive.

If you have HIV and take your HIV medicines as prescribed throughout your pregnancy and delivery, and give your baby HIV medicines for four to six weeks after birth, your risk of passing HIV to your baby can be less than one per cent".  

But why are young people increasingly contracting the virus?

According to NSDCC CEO Dr Ruth Laibon-Masha, many young people are more concerned about getting pregnant than contracting the virus.

"Unprotected inter-generational sex is on the rise and unfortunately we have also learnt that older men do not know how to use condoms," the CEO said recently during the 7th Maisha Scientific Conference, an international conference that aims to provide a platform for policy makers, scientists, communities and partners to share knowledge and lessons learnt from almost four decades of HIV response.

The Ministry of Health's National AIDS and STI Control Programme (NASCOP) agrees with Dr Laibon-Masha.

According to Dr Lazarus Momanyi of NASCOP, who reminded delegates at the same conference that older people in the country are still very sexually active, hence the increase in new HIV infections among older people, 65 per cent of PLHIV in the country are aged 35 years and above, while 27 per cent are above 50 years.

"An estimated 883,694 of the 1.4 million people living with HIV are between the ages of 35 and 74, many of whom were diagnosed in their younger years."

Dr Momanyi urges young people living with the virus to stop defaulting on ARVs. "Today we have antimicrobial resistance (AMR) because people are not taking the drugs properly, the young people who are not taking the drugs as they are supposed to are going to develop resistance and end up with a wide range of drugs that are not working for them and therefore have less and less options of drugs to use," he said.