Report: 254,000 young girls got pregnant in Kenya last year

 pre-ecmplasia, pregnancy complications

Overlapping challenges of HIV, unintended pregnancies, and SGBV among adolescent girls and young people present sexual risk and vulnerabilities.

Photo credit: SHUTTERSTOCK

What you need to know:

  • The data was part of the highlights of the latest findings of the National Syndemic Diseases Council, at the ongoing 14th Kenya Medical Research Institute Annual Scientific and Health Conference.
  • The council's chief executive officer Liabon-Masha said the country still has a lot of work to do in ending the Tripe Threat of teen pregnancies, HIV infection and gender-based violence.

Some 696 adolescent girls were impregnated daily last year, according to National Syndemic Diseases Council CEO Ruth Laibon-Masha.

Highlighting the council's latest findings at the ongoing 14th Kenya Medical Research Institute Annual Scientific and Health Conference, Dr Liabon-Masha said Kenya still has a lot of work to do.

“Fifty-five per cent of the 1,499,514 pregnancies that occurred in the country in 2023 were among adolescents and young women, aged 10–24 years, whereas 17 per cent (254,753) were among adolescent girls aged 10–19, translating into 696 adolescent pregnancies in a day,” she noted.

Dr Laibon-Masha also said that despite the country registering remarkable progress in the fight against HIV with new cases dropping from a high of 101,448 in 2013 to 22,154 in 2022, which translates into a 78.2 per cent reduction over the last decade, the curve is not flattening fast enough.  

“Adolescents and young people aged 15–24 are disproportionately affected by HIV, with 41 per cent of the adult new HIV infections last year being attributed to this age group.”

This, she explained, means that despite Kenya’s commitment to ending HIV by 2030, a closer look at existing data shows that the curve of new cases is not flattening fast enough to end the epidemic as a public health threat.

Last year, in addition to contracting HIV and getting pregnant, adolescents also experienced gender-based violence (GBV), an infringement on basic human rights.

According to Dr Laibon-Masha, 53,765 cases of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) were reported at health facilities/rescue centres in 2023, out of which 20,053 (37 per cent) were among adolescent girls aged 10–17.

“Only 42 per cent of all SGBV cases and 40 per cent of GBV cases among adolescents were reported within 72 hours, minimising chances of success of postexposure prophylaxis(Pep) further increasing chances of HIV transmission.”

Pep means taking HIV medicines within 72 hours (three days) after a possible exposure to the virus to prevent infection.

Dr Laibon-Masha explained that these overlapping challenges of new HIV cases, unintended pregnancies, and SGBV among adolescent girls and young people, known as “triple threat”, present a malignant triad of sexual risk and vulnerabilities.

“They must be addressed if progress is to be maintained in addressing HIV as a public health challenge.”   ​