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Religious belief cure for HIV?

26 June 2014, 15:39 Samuel Kisika

Nairobi – Kenya AIDS Indicator Survey (KAIS) 2012 Report reveals that 79% of HIV-infected religious people neglecting medical care have viral suppression compared to 15% of victims seeking healthcare.

The report, which was released by the Health Cabinet Secretary, James Macharia also indicated that 53% of the infected persons are unaware of their status.

Macharia called for more testing of all people especially sex workers, homosexuals and those who undergo drug injection.

He further said his ministry will soon launch a targeted HIV test-and-link campaign and imperatively expand all testing strategies such as provider-initiated testing and counseling in health centers, early infant diagnosis, family testing and self-testing.

“KAIS 2012 confirmed that condom use remains very low in Kenya. Understanding that condom use in committed relationships is difficult. My ministry needs to work harder to promote condom use for individuals engaging in high-risk sexual behavior, such as persons with multiple concurrent partners, those engaging in sex with persons of unknown HIV status, and key populations engaging in high-risk sex, including transactional sex and male-to-male sex,” Macharia said during the launch of Kenya AIDS Indicator Survey (KAIS) 2012 Report.

He said continued advocacy is required to promote reduction of HIV especially by encouraging people to know HIV status of their sexual partners, embrace condom use and provision of Antiretroviral (ART) drugs for infected persons in HIV-discordant relationships to enhance protection against sexual transmission.

“Prevention interventions that focus on key populations who are not only at risk of HIV but also face stigma, discrimination and violence will continue to be our focus. My ministry will also work hard to address stigma, discrimination and violence for people living with HIV and other vulnerable groups in the country,” said Macharia.

The Health CS added that accelerated campaign for voluntary medical male circumcision is needed through scaled up early infant circumcision among traditionally non-circumcising communities especially in Nyanza where the survey reveals that HIV prevalence is yet to drop since 2007 and that 15% of the population is HIV positive.

He asserted that despite over 93% of HIV positive women attending antenatal clinics and receiving ART treatment, HIV exposed children are neglected from accessing healthcare in addition to addressing the Report’s 61% unmet family planning target in preventing mother-to-child infection.

“Having enumerated some of the policy implications for the KAIS report, I now want to note that the war against HIV is still far from being won. The HIV epidemic in the country is quite heterogeneous. Some regions of our country face a higher HIV burden than others. This call for sustained and targeted HIV response as the surest way of maintaining the gains made so far and even achieving more,” reiterated Macharia.

“KAIS 2012 final results indicate that approximately 1.2 million adults and 101 000 children are living with HIV. We also now know that about 100 000 new infections are occurring each year. In order for Kenya to realise an AIDS-free generation, we as a country must place the utmost priority on the prevention of new infections, identification of all HIV infected individuals and treatment of all the eligible HIV-infected adults and children to ensure universal treatment coverage,” he added.

Macharia said his ministry has updated the national HIV treatment guidelines to encourage the earlier initiation of HIV treatment and to energise strategies for prevention of HIV transmission by expanding the criteria for HIV treatment.

The US Ambassador to Kenya, Robert Godec also present at the launch of the KAIS 2012 report lauded the country’s progress in the fight against HIV by reducing the prevalence from 7.2% in 2007 to 5.6% in 2012.

“US government will spend KES 42 billion in the fight against HIV in Kenya and will maintain its strong partnership with the government in addressing health issues in addition to continuously help in building health systems in the country,” assured Godec.  

The report revealed that early sex activities among young people is the cause of rising HIV for the group where many youths below 14 years have engaged in sex, 14% of men have multiple partners with 40% of them not using condoms compared to women.

The report also found that majority of partners do not disclose their HIV status before having sex compared to 46% of partners who knew the status of their previous sexual partners adding that 39% of women engaging in unprotected sex had unwanted pregnancies and were on contraceptives.

It also revealed that women with uncircumcised male partners have three times HIV prevalence compared to women with circumcised partners hence need to embrace male circumcision in fighting HIV.

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