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Scourge ravaging central region

Eight people get infected with HIV while four others succumb to conditions related to the virus daily in three counties of the central region.
Most of those affected are women and young persons aged between 15 to 24 years according to a situational report from Central Regional HIV coordinator Julius Koome.
The report indicates that 66,285 people in Murang’a, Nyeri and Kirinyaga counties are living with the virus whose spread is being fueled mainly by sexuality among teenagers, economic vulnerabilities especially among women and the youth, alcohol and substance use among others.
In Murang’a 30,376 people live with the devastating virus that causes Aids with a prevalence rate of 4.2% while there are 21,428 cases in Nyeri where prevalence is at 3.7%. Kirinyaga trails with 14,481 infections and a prevalence rate of 3.2% with women bearing the blunt of the scourge.
“The prevalence among women is disproportionately high with two in every three people living with HIV in the three counties being women,” says Koome.
And as the epidemic continues to wreak havoc to families across the region, Koome regrets that condom uptake remains low.
“The 2017 annual condom distribution data from the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority’s (KEMSA) logistical management information systems revealed an average of between 2.7 and 3.1 million condoms. Technically, this yields a regional average of 9 condoms/man/yearr. which is far below the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended 14 condoms/man/year.,” said the official.
Koome said the education sector was also reeling from the effects of the infections with a number of primary school pupils and secondary school students affected dropping out of school owing to stigma and discrimination.
“Treatment adherence especially among children in schools and colleges is low which in turn leads to increasing cases of illness and mortality rate among the group,” said the official.
In the brief to Regional Commissioner Wilfred Nyagwanga and cascaded to all administrators in the three counties, Koome says the increasing cases of infection with wide ranging social and economic impact was raising concerns and concerted efforts need to be taken to tame the ravaging scourge.
Koome now wants ministries, government departments and semi-autonomous state agencies to prioritise and strengthen HIV response within their structures by ensuring formation of functional Aids control units.
“Performance contracting regulations requires all government institutions to form units to address and mitigate the raging negative effect of the HIV epidemic,” said Koome.
He added that formation of integrated HIV policies and compliance with the HIV Maisha reporting and certification regulations was a must in order to fight the spread of infection.
Other raft of measures designed to bring the infection rate under control according to Koome include supporting upscale of HIV related services in non-medical settings such as Huduma centres.
“Ensuring that HIV mitigation measures are factored in public and private infrastructural projects and participation in county multi-sectoral meetings will also complement our efforts to tame the infections,” said Koome.

By Kiamah Wamutitu

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