Alarm as 98 Kenyan teenage girls infected with HIV weekly

Fred Matiang'i

Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i (left) with Health PS Susan Mochache during a forum on prevention of HIV/Aids, infections, teenage pregnancies and gender-based violence in Mombasa on April 7, 2022. 

Photo credit: Kevin Odit | Nation Media Group.

What you need to know:

  • Health PS Susan Mochache said that Kenya recorded 45,724 cases of teen pregnancies in January and February.
  • According to Mochache, 12,520 cases of SGBV were reported in 2021.

The Ministry of Health has revealed that at least 98 girls aged 10–19 were infected with HIV every week between January and February.

Further, the Health PS Susan Mochache said that Kenya recorded 45,724 cases of teen pregnancies during the two months, while 2,196 cases of sexual and gender-based violence among those aged 12-17 were reported. 

According to Ms Mochache, there has been an effort in the past years to “end the triple threat” that bedevils many young girls.

The PS spoke during a four-day national dialogue meeting with county commissioners on their coordinating role in tackling HIV, teenage pregnancies, and gender-based violence held at the Coast.

“Working together with our partners, Kenya made great strides towards ending AIDS as a public health threat,” the PS said.

Mochache further mentioned that between 2013 and 2021, HIV intervention programmes resulted in a 67 per cent decline in annual AIDS-related deaths.

Antiretroviral treatment

“This encouraging performance reflects an increase of 83 per cent in the number of people living with HIV that are on life-saving antiretroviral treatment, from 600,000 people in 2013 to 1.2 million people in 2021,” she added.

The PS, however, was concerned with the high cases of sexual and gender-based violence that have left many women and girls with HIV apart from robbing them of their dignity.

According to Mochache, 12,520 cases of SGBV were reported in 2021.

“We were able to provide HIV preventive services to 4,664 of these young survivors. Unfortunately, 53 of them had acquired HIV,” she added.

In the same year, of all antenatal care attendances, 21 per cent were adolescent mothers aged 10-19. Worse still, 23,279 girls aged 10-14 were recorded in the health facilities as presenting pregnancies.

“Kenya has a predominantly young population, with 67 per cent aged below 29. We cannot nurture their potential if we continue to condone the disruption of education for adolescent girls,” added the PS.

As the country embarks on a journey to ensure that every Kenyan has access to quality health services, the PS said securing the health of young girls must remain a key priority.

Teenage pregnancy

“We will not win if one in every five girls continues to bear a child before their 19th birthday. This is the reason why we must approach this agenda with a preventive lens through a one-hovernment Approach,” she added.

Apart from vowing to end teenage pregnancy by 2030 at the International Conference for Population and Development, Kenya has further committed to addressing all forms of sexual and gender-based violence and ending HIV as a public health threat by 2030.

According to the PS, the commitment can only be achieved through stringent enforcement of laws to protect children while educating the entire nation that all forms of sexual and gender-based remain unacceptable.

She added that ensuring girls stay in school will be a key pillar that will spur both social and economic growth.

“This calls for us all, as a nation, to talk in one voice; to ensure that our home-grown solutions and strategies are at work to address the challenge of HIV, teenage pregnancies and gender-based violence,” she said.

She also raised concern over the increasing number of young people using narcotic drugs. Currently, there are more than 8,000 people on opioid substitution therapy.

“These young people experience high HIV risk and vulnerability and are also predisposed to Hepatitis infections,” she said.