KENYA: Survey reveals older people at risk

Photo: Glenna Gordon/IRIN
NAIROBI, 24 September 2009 (PlusNews) - Kenya's older citizens are not safe from the HIV/AIDS epidemic, according to the final report of the 2007 Kenya AIDS Indicator Survey.

The survey, released on 24 September, also showed that the country's epidemic varies greatly from region to region, while HIV testing remains low due to low risk perception among the population.

Prevalence among people aged between 50 and 60 is 5 percent, compared with a national average of 7.1 percent; previous studies had not measured HIV among people over 49.

"We have now to start driving HIV and AIDS messages and campaigns that target the older population because these findings reveal that they are actually at risk of contracting HIV," said Ibrahim Mohamed, director of the National AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infection Control Programme (NASCOP).

Regional variations

According to the study, three of the country's eight provinces - Nairobi, Nyanza and Rift Valley - account for 50 percent of the HIV burden. Other provinces - such as North Eastern, with a prevalence of about 1 percent - are significantly less affected by the pandemic.

"There is a need to find out what is driving HIV infection in these hot spots and address them adequately," said David Okello, Kenya country representative at the UN World Health Organization. "Awareness of HIV and sexual behaviour seems to be at odds in certain regions... while awareness levels are generally high, studies show that sexual behaviour isn't changing positively and quickly enough.

"These results should trigger practical actions from the government and those involved," he added.

Low risk perception

The survey also found that many Kenyans thought they were not at risk of HIV; 47 percent said they had not been tested for HIV because they did not consider themselves to be at risk.

''These results should trigger practical action from the government and those involved.''
"There is a need for us to normalise HIV testing to address the low perception of risk," said NASCOP's Mohamed. "We need to make people believe that testing for HIV is as normal as testing for any other disease."

Although HIV testing has more than doubled since 2003, nearly two-thirds of Kenyans aged between 15 and 64 did not know their HIV status.

Women continue to be more at risk than men, with three out of five HIV-infected Kenyans female, while the epidemic is worse in towns and cities than in rural areas.


Theme (s): Education, Gender Issues, Health & Nutrition, HIV/AIDS (PlusNews), Prevention - PlusNews, Urban Risk,

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

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