41 per cent of all the new HIV infections among persons between the age of 15 and 29 recorded in Turkana in 2019 were girls and young women the County Director for medical services Dr Gilchrist Lokoel has said.
Speaking during the commemoration of World AIDS Day 2020 at Lodwar Vocational Training Centre on behalf of health CEC Jane Ajele, Dr Lokoel expressed fears that more girls had been exposed to HIV infection going by the rising numbers of teenage pregnancies witnessed as a result of the closure of schools from covid-19.
The health director strongly condemned men who prey on school-going and teenage girls and called on authorities to deal punitively with such men as a means of curbing the menace and reducing the vulnerability of the said girls to new HIV infections.
“A pregnant teenager is robbed of opportunities to access basic human rights such as education and therefore locking them out of self-empowerment and economic freedom. This matter is therefore not just a health issue, but also an economic and social injustice issue,” said Lokoel.
Dr Lokoel also noted that huge success in HIV response had been witnessed in the county since deaths resulting from HIV and AIDS-related complications had reduced from 2500 in 2015 to only 378 in 2019.
The Director added that the county and its HIV implementing partners had managed to ensure that 9475 persons living with HIV were on antiretroviral therapy as at 2020.
On trends of infections, the director attributed the reduction of numbers from an average of 2900 in 2015 to just 645 in 2019 to the robust HIV response programs and the continued sensitization of the community on HIV prevention.
“As a country, we are at crossroads, we must carefully choose a path that will deliver us from the two concurrent pandemics of covid-19 and HIV/AIDS. This goal can only be achieved by overcoming stigma, discrimination and following Ministry of Health protocols on both Covid-19 and HIV/AIDS,” said Dr. Lokoel.
During the celebrations, persons living with HIV were given “Maisha packs” which included foodstuff and other self-help items for use at home.
The event was attended by Bernard Mwaura (Turkana region NACC coordinator), Chris Eweillar (Ampathplus Team lead for Turkana), Samwel Pulkol ( County HIV programmes coordinator), Mr Oyori (NHIF, Turkana office), Ibrahim Lokwawi (Echuman Counselling Centre) and officers from various health program partners.
By Peter Gitonga