There is need to confront the triple threat of new HIV infections, Sexual and Gender Based Violence and teen pregnancies among adolescent and young people in West Pokot County and other parts of the country.
These sentiments were expressed by West Pokot County Executive Committee Member (CECM) for Health and Sanitation Clare Parklea during the day to mark World AIDS day at Chelang’a gardens in Makutano town.
Parklea disclosed that the estimated number of people living with HIV in the county is 4600 with 3386 being on treatment as at October 2022, adding that the county HIV prevalence has dropped to 1% from 1.6% in 2020 due to prevention measures put in place against new infections.
She stressed the need to promote and protect the rights of those living with and those affected by HIV.
‘‘HIV related stigma and discrimination need to be addressed because it hinders access to prevention and treatment services to those infected,’’ she remarked.
She said the county is grappling with teenage pregnancies and early marriage noting that in 2021, 911 teenage pregnancies were reported in the county.
She pointed out that adolescent girls should be supported through provision of menstrual and sanitary hygiene materials adding that the ongoing drought has heavily affected vulnerable communities and called for support of those affected through provision of food rich in nutrients.
The CEC advocated for planting of trees to mitigate effects of climate change and pointed out the government’s plan to improve health services in the county so that those living with HIV can access improved health services that will enable them to live longer, productive lives.
She hailed young people for taking an active role in the response against the HIV pandemic while also applauding health care stakeholders for their relentless support in the fight against HIV and AIDS in the county.
She cited the presence of healthcare stakeholders during the World AIDS day as a demonstration of their commitment and desire for a county free of HIV and AIDS infections.
According to Associate Program manager at the Academic Model Providing Access to Healthcare (AMPATH) and also West Pokot County HIV coordinator Dr Samson Ndege, sexual and Gender Based Violence and teen pregnancies promote the increase of HIV infections both in West Pokot and globally.
He highlighted gender-based violence as a crime that need to be addressed since it increases risk of HIV for women in the county and country at large.
Dr Ndege stressed that young people are at most risk of HIV infection, especially girls if they engage in sexual activities without protection against HIV and AIDS.
He pointed out that sexual abstinence is effective in preventing HIV and AIDS and challenged college and school students to refrain from sexual activity while still young in order to prevent early pregnancies and diseases infection.
Dr Ndege at the same time encouraged people to get tested in order for them to know their HIV status first before engaging in sexual activities with their partners.
However, Ndege challenged those people who married to remain faithful to their spouses.
Dr Ndege urged those not able to abstain from sex to practice safe sex by using condoms if they engage in sex with people who are not their partners.
He emphasized that people living with HIV should not shy away from taking drugs because of stigma while pointing out that defaulting taking drugs in the first line of treatment will lead to the second line of treatment which is more complicated and expensive.
He encouraged those living with HIV to disclose their HIV status in order for them to be assisted with medication.
Every year, the World AIDS day is observed on December 1, the day gives a chance to people all over the world to come together in the battle against HIV, to support those living with HIV, and to remember those who have passed away from HIV/AIDS related illness.
This year’s theme is ‘‘EQUALIZE’’ to end the Triple Threat of New HIV infections, Adolescent pregnancies and Sexual gender-based violence in the community, country and globally.
The event which took place in West Pokot was organised by the West Pokot County Department of Health staff in collaboration with the National Syndetic Diseases Control Council (NSDCC), USAID AMPATH Uzima, The National Empowerment Network of People Living with HIV and AIDS in Kenya (NEPHAK), Q-Initiative, Equity Afia, DSW organisation, Declares Kenya organisation, Sinendet sports house, Tecla Le Roupe Peace Foundation and Kenya Red Cross society and other partners.
By Anthony Melly