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Decrease in AIDS prevalence rate in Kenya

Health officials reported a slight drop in the HIV/AIDS prevalence rate in Kenya from 6.1% in 2005 to 5.9% this year. //

The National AIDS Control Council of Kenya (NACC) released the latest data, according to which, the HIV prevalence rate in urban areas is 9.6 % whereas in rural areas it is 4.6%. A variety of programs like Voluntary Testing and Counseling (VCT) and projects preventing pregnant HIV-positive mothers from passing the virus to their babies, are responsible for this marginal drop says NACC Director Alloys Orago.

Orago said, "The statistics showed that the prevalence rate among youths aged 15 to 24 years was high among girls at 4.5 percent while it stood at 0.8 percent among boys. " The NACC director said, "More attention will be focused on women as the female prevalence stands at 7.7 percent as opposed to that of males at 4.0 percent. Girls, women and children are the most vulnerable groups to HIV/AIDS infection."

At present, 50% of the 1.27 million Kenyans infected with HIV, are women. "There is an increase in the number of children being born infected with HIV meaning that there is still a large number of women who have not fully understood the message," Orago said.

He said, "64,000 women have tested positive and need treatment while 39,000 children need Antiretroviral drugs (ARVs). Out of the 263,000 adults who require ARVs, only 90,000 people are getting them. "1.2 million children have been orphaned from HIV/AIDS- related illnesses. About 164 people are infected by HIV every day, which translates to 60,000 new infections annually. "90,000 people infected by AIDS had been enrolled on life-prolonging anti-retroviral drugs. "However, the number of infected people who urgently require the drugs stands at 263,000 countrywide," he said.

The campaign faces a major challenge, lack of sufficient funds. "The government needs to match donor funding for HIV/AIDS intervention so that we can susta in the programs," said NACC Deputy Director for Finance and Administration, Beatrice Gathirwa.

Kenya’s accomplishment matches that of Uganda that has been cited by UNAIDS as the most effective in the developing world in controlling the spread of AIDS. According to the experts, the huge number of deaths in Kenya due to AIDS-related diseases has also added to the reduction in prevalence of HIV infections. In context of Africa, where over 60% of the 40 million people worldwide with HIV live, Kenya’s accomplishment in slowing the epidemic is remarkable.

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