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ARVs access offers hope to 0.5m in lake region

Access to Anti Retroviral Treatment (ART) has given a new lease of life to the over 500,000 people living with HIV/Aids in the lake region counties.

The latest Kenya Aids Response Progress Report 2018 shows that Anti-Retroviral Treatment (ART) has ensured the survival of 524,172 infected people in the six lake-region counties, which have the highest prevalence rate in the country.

National AIDS Control Council (NACC) chief executive officer, Dr Kilonzo Nduku  says cultural barriers such as wife-inheritance and sex-forfish trade, which led to a spike in the number of HIV/Aids infections in these counties had gone down.

Out of the six lake region counties, Homa Bay tops the list with 138,921 people living with HIV followed by Siaya (123,107), Kisumu(122,301), Migori ( 85,765), Kisii (37,874) and Nyamira (19,004). Prevalence percentage rates respectively are 20.7, 21.0, 16.3, 13.3, 4.4 and Nyamira 4.2 per cent.

In 2015, Kenya adopted the World Health Organisation’s recommendations to immediately offer treatment to people diagnosed with HIV. As a result, in 2016, around 940,000 adults and 60,000 children were accessing  ART.  

In total, the report says 635,000 deaths have been averted across the country since the scale-up of ART began in 2004 through to 2017. The number in need of ART was estimated at 1,338,200 last year. During the period between 2010-2017, the ART needs for children age 0-14 rose from 88,600 in 2010 to 105,200 in 2017.

HIV epidemic

Cumulatively, some 2.2 million Aids deaths have occurred since the HIV epidemic broke out in 1984 to last year.

“A major challenge for HIV programmes is to ensure treatment requirements of People Living with HIV (PLWHIV),” says the director of Medical Services, Dr Jackson Kioko.

“Scaling up of ART and tackling discrimination that makes it easier for people to get tested prolongs life,” said Dr Kilonzo  during the launch of  the Kenya Aids Response 2018, HIV Estimates 2018 and County Profile Reports held at the University of Embu. 

According to Dr Kilonzo, the number of PLWHIV increased because of improved access to treatment and change in treatment guidelines irrespective of CD4 count.

Besides the six lake region counties, others with the highest adult HIV prevalence in 2017 include Busia 7.7 per cent, Nairobi 6.1 per cent, Vihiga 5.4 per cent, Kitui 4.5 per cent and Kakamega 4.5 per cent. The rest with the highest category are Trans Nzoia 4.3 per cent, Murang’a  4.2   per cent, Makueni 4.2. per cent, Mombasa 4.1 per cent, Taita Taveta 4.1 per cent, and Kiambu at 4.0 per cent.

However, the report shows that the number of new infections per year continues to outpace the number of deaths among HIV-infected persons, resulting in a net annual increase in the size of the infected population. 

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