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Tuesday 15 November 2005
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KENYA: Confusion over HIV prevalence rates

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

JOHANNESBURG, 13 January (PLUSNEWS) - Findings from a government survey released last week showed that Kenya may have a lower HIV prevalence rate than was previously thought, but activists warned the situation on the ground had not changed.

The preliminary report of the Kenya Demographic and Health Survey found there were fewer people living with HIV/AIDS than projected - 6.7 percent compared to the 9.4 percent estimated by UNAIDS and the World Health Organisation for 2003. Up to 3,000 households were tested for HIV in the study, which is used to plan government health policies.

In a statement on Tuesday, UNAIDS described last week's news reports claiming that their figures were "overestimated", as unfounded.

"When broken down by gender, the survey found an HIV prevalence of 8.7 percent among women, which is in the same range as the 9.4 percent prevalence estimated by UNAIDS and WHO," UNAIDS said in the statement.

But to people working in communities at grassroots level, the debate about these statistics was of no use, ActionAid national HIV/AIDS coordinator, Ludfine Anyango Opudo, told PlusNews.

"The reality on the ground is that we are not seeing any figures going down. While the researchers and scientists argue about numbers, people are still dying every day," she said.

Opudo warned that people could be lulled into a "false sense of security" by the "confusing" statistics. She called on government authorities to continue with their awareness campaigns.

The acting director of Kenya's National AIDS Council, Dr Patrick Orege, agreed. "The prevalence is still high - obviously there's a need for caution. People should not change their safe behaviour, and they should not slacken," he said.

This was the first time HIV prevalence statistics had been collected from the general population in Kenya, and also included more rural areas, he noted.

"Although household surveys have the advantage of including men and non-pregnant women, and include more rural sites, a common problem of such surveys is the low participation rate. For example, in this study, 30 percent refused testing," UNAIDS said in the statement.

The final demographic and health survey is scheduled for release in May 2004.


Recent KENYA Reports
Caring for Nairobi's HIV-positive orphans,  4/Oct/05
Govt promises expansion of free ARVs,  4/May/05
Health centre to treat HIV/AIDS patients inaugurated,  28/Apr/05
New tax jeopardises treatment access,  10/Feb/05
Fight against HIV/AIDS bearing fruit, but challenges remain,  18/Jan/05

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