Kenya moves HIV and AIDS fight to adolescents and youths


 NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 25 – Kenya will this year focus its activities on ending and preventing HIV and AIDS among adolescents and youths, as it joins the rest of the world in celebrating the 28th World AIDS Day.

Although the number of new HIV infections has significantly declined, the country has been witnessing a worrying rise in the number of new infections among those aged between 15 and 24. Out of the 77,600 new infections that were recorded this year, 71,000 were found to be in the adult population and more than half of these were in adolescents and young people.

Speaking ahead of the World AIDS Day on December 1, National AIDS Control Council (NACC) Director Dr. Nduku Kilonzo noted that two thirds of the infections were in adolescent girls and young women. At the same time, 3,850 adolescents and young people died in 2015 due to AIDS related illnesses.

Despite these grim statistics, Dr. Kilonzo observed that stigma and discrimination continues to discourage young people from seeking HIV preventive care and treatment, further compounding the situation.

“In view of this we and our partners organized the Maisha County League. This is an initiative that leverages on the power of football to mobilize young people for a nationwide campaign to ‘Kick Out HIV Stigma’. The campaign seeks to end HIV stigma and link young people to stigma-free HIV testing, treatment and care,” she explained.

The Maisha League inter County play offs started last Wednesday and will be followed by regional play offs on Monday and Tuesday, next week. On Wednesday, the Maisha Memorial Garden for Young People will be unveiled in Kibera. On World AIDS Day, the NACC, in partnership with network of young people living with HIV have organized the Prevention Party. This is a concert that has been put together so as to engage with young people.

These activities are designed to encourage young people to get tested for HIV while accessing comprehensive HIV information. They will also enhance awareness of counseling and treatment options that are available to adolescents and young people in order to facilitate the country’s efforts towards raising an AIDS-free generation.

“NACC also plans to use these activities to promote responsibility among adolescents and young people by encouraging them to know their HIV status and to urge National and County governments to commit resources in the fight against HIV and AIDS among adolescents and young people,” said Dr. Kilonzo.

Kenya is reported to have the fourth highest HIV burden in the world with an estimated 1.5 million Kenyans said to be living with the virus. Currently, over 900,000 Kenyans are enrolled in antiretroviral treatment (ART). As a result of this scale up of ART, approximately 500,000 AIDS-related deaths were averted in 2015.

The Ministry of Health has at the same time developed a series of policies and plans to combat this epidemic. These include the Kenya AIDS Strategic Framework (KASF) 2014/15 – 2018/29; the Kenya HIV Prevention Revolution Roadmap and the Fast Track Plan to End HIV and AIDS Among Adolescents and Young People.

World AIDS Day has been observed on December 1st since 1988. It is a day for public and private partners to spread awareness about the status of the epidemic and encourage progress in HIV and AIDS prevention, treatment and care. It also gives an opportunity for people to think about the health, social and personal costs of a global epidemic and to show support for the individuals and communities who are infected and affected by HIV.