What you need to know:
- Some 1.6 million Kenyans are living with HIV today, meaning the country has the fourth highest number of infections in the world. Have we lost the battle against the virus?
The news last week that Kenya has the fourth highest number of people living with HIV in the world was a bit shocking.
How could that be yet, over the past decade, the country has spent billions of shillings in awareness and behaviour change campaigns? Wasn’t there talk just the other day that infection rates were going down, that things were beginning to look up?
Consider this: Probably because of all the regionally concentrated advocacy over the past few years regarding the disease, five out of Kenya’s 47 counties account for half of all the new infections in adults!
These are the usual suspects — Homa Bay, Kisumu, Siaya, Migori and Kisii — and they recorded the highest number of deaths from HIV-related illnesses last year despite having a high concentration of awareness programmes.
Statistics released by the Ministry of Health last week indicate a bipolar trend regarding HIV incidences, with Homa Bay, which is ranked the highest in infections, having close to 27 out of 100 people living with the virus. On the other hand, Wajir County has just one person out of every 500 living with the virus.
Homa Bay County had the highest number of new infections last year (at 12,940), followed by Kisumu County (10,350), while Siaya, Migori and Kisii contributed 9,870, 6,790 and 4,890 new infections, respectively.
Tana River, Marsabit, Mandera and Garissa counties also recorded a low number of new infections, with each of them recording a single new HIV infection per every 100 persons in a year.
In total, there were over 105,500 new HIV infections in the country last year. Out of the number, children accounted for 12,940, according to the report dubbed The National HIV and Aids Estimates.
The estimates are prepared every year by the Ministry of Health to report the impact of the epidemic at national and county levels, and indicate that the need for antiretroviral therapy has significantly increased by over 500,000 since 2005, with a total of 760,000 people requiring treatment in 2013. These are the people with CD4 counts of less than 350.
An interesting finding was that the prevalence of HIV among females between the ages of 15 to 24 was higher than that in males in the same age brackets.
Despite the figures, the Ministry of Health noted that there was a 15 per cent decline in the rate of HIV infection among adults aged between ages 15 to 49 in 2013 when compared to those in the year 2000.
“There were a total of 105,000 new infections 14 years ago, compared to the 88,000 in 2013. This is due to the scale up of various prevention and treatment programmes,” the report suggested, adding that thee scale up of antiretroviral uptake saved more than 380,000 lives in the country since 2009.
The ministry suggested that three times less people died of HIV in Kenya in 2013, compared to the number of deaths 10 years ago, and that “the decline is directly attributable to the wider access to free treatment”.
Still, the number of new infections, and the number of people living with the virus, paint a worrying trend. Here, Kenya’s HIV story in numbers: