Kenya joins world in marking AIDS Day
02 December 2013, 08:22
Mombasa - Kenya joined the rest of the international community on Sunday in marking the World AIDS Day amid calls for concerted efforts in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
The celebrations which were held in the coastal city of Mombasa saw the First Lady Margaret Kenyatta declare war against the pandemic amid fears that the rate of infections remained high despite efforts to contain it.
"Children are our future; their mothers are its custodians. I wish to join all Kenyans towards a shared vision where no mother or child shall die from preventable causes and a future with zero new HIV infections, zero AIDS related deaths and zero AIDS related stigma," she said.
Kenyatta said it was disturbing that only 38 percent of children born with HIV were accessing lifesaving medication in the country. She called for concerted efforts to join campaigns that will scale down the 13,000 new infections among children annually.
She said the country could not afford to rest while HIV/AIDS continued to wreak havoc on citizens.
"How can we rest when young mothers whose hope of remaining healthy to bring up their children is eroded by a virus that we can control?" she asked during the celebrations to mark the 25th National World AIDS day whose theme was "getting to zero."
Kenyatta said girls must, particularly, be empowered and safe havens must be created in institutions of learning to free them from the burden of HIV/AIDS.
She regretted that women and children continued to bear the brunt of the pandemic despite the progress made in preventing Mother to Child Transmission.
"I note with concern that new HIV infections among girls and women aged 15 to 24 remain depressingly high while by contrast their male peers infection rates are considerably lower," Kenyatta said.
Kenyatta urged Kenyans to strongly fight the stigma and discrimination associated with HIV/AIDS. "By doing so, we will help curb the spread of the pandemic that threatens to tear us apart and undermine the fundamental values that families are built on," she said.
She cautioned that prevention, treatment and care programs will not be effective if people continued apportioning blame and shame on others.
Kenyatta also expressed her commitment to working with all Kenyans to end the AIDS epidemic, saying doing so will allow citizens to be more productive in their lives.
"I urge everyone to join me as champions that will create a new momentum for action to end preventable deaths among women and children and give a new impetus to the fight against HIV," she said.
Kenyatta reminded Kenyans that HIV prevalence rate in the country remained high, and vowed that no effort should be spared in fighting the pandemic.
"We are ranked among the top four countries globally with the highest numbers of people living with HIV/AIDS. This is a reminder that a lot of work still needs to be done," she said.
Noting that an estimated 44 percent of the new infections occur within stable relationships, the First Lady said achievement of Vision 2030 goals will be jeopardized if the scourge is not effectively confronted.