AP Photo/Ben Curtis
In tribute of World HIV/Aids Day to be observed next week, Kenya has rolled out several programmes aimed at becoming the third African country to control its HIV/Aids epidemic.
The East African country wants to follow in the footsteps of Botswana and Namibia, with concerted and smart actions, in particular for safeguarding sustained access to medicines. President Uhuru Kenyatta advocates universal access to lifesaving medicines to end the aids epidemic by 2030.
In February, he presided over the launch of All In – a new global initiative to end the AIDS epidemic among adolescents, imploring all stakeholders to join hands in fighting HIV/Aids. He called on Africa’s development partners to bridge the financing gap in combating HIV/Aids
“Kenya will lead by example by increasing resources towards HIV/Aids prevention, treatment, essential health care and counseling services for adolescents. AIDS epidemic among adolescents threatens Kenyan journey towards reaching middle-income country status. My government will re-examine the national curriculum to better engage with young people living with HIV and to eliminate stigma and discrimination in schools” he said at the launch.
Kenya has recorded significant progress towards access to antiretroviral treatment for children and adolescents living with HIV to be improved rapidly. While 78% of adults living with HIV in Kenya have access to antiretroviral treatment, just 36% of children have access to life-saving medicines.
The costs of the HIV response are enormous. In 2012/13 Kenya’s expenditure on HIV was equivalent of 1.3% of the country’s GDP. Africa is home to about 68% of the 34 million people living with HIV. Africa is also importing more than 80% of its antiretroviral drugs. Data, science and lessons from HIV response show us that we can eliminate HIV as a public health threat by 2030.
The country last week introduced HIV self-test kits to enable users to determine their status at their convenience and in private. National Aids and STIs Control Programme (NACSOP) Director Martin Sirengo said the agency is lowering the HIV testing age from 18 to 15 because children are increasingly becoming sexually active.
1.6 million Kenyans are infected with HIV, the fourth highest after South Africa, Nigeria and India. These populations represent the most valuable human capital and economic investment for the future of our nations. This requires the governments commitment to the lifetime availability of the drugs and commodities, recognizing that HIV is also an underlying condition for other health consequences including cancers, maternal and child deaths.
UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director Luiz Loures promised at the launch to help Kenya inn preventing new HIV infections among adolescents and ending the HIV/Aids epidemic. He emphasized that action has to be accelerated over the next five years if the AIDS epidemic is to be ended by 2030.
“I am heartened by President Kenyatta’s firm commitment to accelerating Kenya’s AIDS response. Only by fast-tracking our response to HIV over the next five years, will we be able to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030,” Loures said.
At September’s UN General Assembly, Kenya again committed to sustainable financing for HIV and AIDS through availing drugs for HIV treatment and addressing the stigmas persons living with HIV face. I addressed a high level meeting on anti-retroviral therapy in Africa which discussed ways of ensuring access to lifesaving medicine to end the Aids epidemic by 2030.
In the 2015/16 financial circle, Kenya has budgeted $26 million to the purchase of anti-retroviral drugs. On a strategic level, the government plans to provide HIV treatment as part of national health insurance plan, setting up HIV and health funds that will leverage government financing and foster strategic private-public partnerships which are urgently required.
Such global commitment with targets, investments and actions could well result in averting 28 million new infections and 21 million Aids related deaths by 2030. Kenya is adopting policies for incubation of local industries for commodities and pharmaceutical products.
“Investing in women’s and children’s health is vital for sustainable economic and social development. Healthy women and children contribute to healthy economies, political stability and shared prosperity” I believe that it is possible to make progress through strategic and coordinated efforts and working together”, says Kenyan First Lady, who also chairs the Organization of African First Ladies against HIV/AIDS (OAFLA).