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Dispensary scales up effort to combat HIV, teenage pregnancy

The Administration of St. Patrick’s Dispensary, a health facility owned by the Catholic Diocese of Lodwar, is keen to scale-up efforts to improve HIV care and treatment services and teenage pregnancy management.

The health facility which is highly rated in the county in the provision of HIV care and treatment services currently provides care for HIV exposed infants, Children and Adolescents Living with HIV (CALHIV), pregnant and breastfeeding mothers.

Speaking to KNA, the Clinical Officer-In-Charge of Care and Treatment Department at St. Patrick’s Dispensary, Abel Walela, said they were committed to providing health care to their clients despite challenges of clients failing to adhere to drugs in that they do not respond to administered drugs.

“In January 2022, we have a total of 887 clients on care, 12 out of them being new enrollment, those transferred to other facilities were 8 and 1 transferred in. Unfortunately, we lost 7 clients who died due to various health conditions,” said Walela.

He pointed out that by the end of the last quarter ending December 2021, the facility had a total of 901 clients under care, which if compared to the current 887, implied that there was a quite a number of patients who had failed to turn out for care.

The Clinical Officer noted that the administration of the facility had put mechanisms in place to ensure clients don’t get lost every time by involving peer educators and Community Health Volunteers (CHVs) who would go on the ground to track and bring back clients to care.

Walela further said there were special groups among the 887 clients who were under Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission (PMTCT) programme including pregnant and breastfeeding mothers who were followed up monthly to reduce the chances of transmission of HIV to the infants.

“By the end of January 2022, we had a total of 106 pregnant and breastfeeding mothers and a total of 86 HIV exposed infants, who were on care follow up,” said Walela.

The CO pointed out drug unavailability as a major challenge in terms of HIV management among the exposed infants as some of the drugs given to children to prevent them from contracting HIV during breastfeeding were unavailable.

He, however, appealed to the agency responsible to look into the issue with urgency, since if delayed, there would be high chances of HIV transmission to infants.

Walela also said that besides taking care of the PMTCT clients and the HIV exposed infants, there was an additional group of Children and Adolescents Living with HIV (CALHIV) whom the facility takes care of in terms of care and treatment.

“By January 2022, we had 130 CALHIV, 49 being paediatric. Out 49, two were newly enrolled by January with less than 10 years, those between 10-19 were 81,” said Walela.

The CO managing the Care and Treatment Department, thanked the facility’s partners including AMREF in collaboration with Imarisha Jamii for providing social support to infected and affected through provision of school fees, stationary, sanitary towels and others in order to improve their social wellbeing in the community to cushion them from stigmatization.

St. Patrick’s Administration also had been playing a major role in HIV prevention through provision of PREP and PEP drugs to protect those exposed to high risk of contracting HIV especially the commercial sex workers.

The medic-In-Charge of Anti-Natal Clinic (ANC) and HIV Testing and Counseling (HTC), Rosemary Adhiambo, said teenage pregnancy had been high and mostly common among the 16 years old girls, especially during the December holidays.

She reiterated that parents were to blame for the increased teenage pregnancies in Turkana County due to their failure to bring up children in an ideal way coherent with societal values to grow up children with high moral standards.

Adhiambo advised parents to handle children in a humane way in case one becomes pregnant instead of humiliating them, a scenario she said would subject the teen into psychological stress which might force her to conduct abortion which might even result in death.

By Ekuwam Sylvester and Peter Gitonga

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