Fight against HIV/AIDS bearing fruit, but challenges remain

KENYA: Fight against HIV/AIDS bearing fruit, but challenges remain

NAIROBI, 18 Jan 2005 (PLUSNEWS) - Kenya's campaign against the spread of HIV/AIDS is bearing fruits, but more needs to be done to help those vulnerable to infection and those affected by the disease, a top UN official said.

"Kenya has made good progress in the fight against AIDS - infection rates are falling," Peter Piot, the executive director of UNAIDS said during a joint news conference in Nairobi.

Kenya's success, he added, was partly due to "strong leadership within the government". Calling for better coordination of efforts by the government, donors and the civil society, he noted that that 1.2 million Kenyans were living with the virus.

"Many people are dying and for every adult who dies, many children are left behind," Piot said.

Kenya has 1.8-million children orphaned by the epidemic, according to Linah Kilimo, the minister of state for home affairs. The HIV prevalence rates declined from 13.6 percent in 1997 to 7 percent in 2004, according to official figures.

During his two-day mission in Kenya, Piot, who was accompanied by senior officials from the World Bank, Britain's Department for International Development (DFID) and the Norwegian foreign ministry, met with government officials, civil society representatives and other donor agencies to discuss ways to strengthen the response to the country's HIV/AIDS efforts.

"Opportunities include ensuring that prevention efforts targeting young people, and in particular young women, are scaled up to ensure further declines in HIV prevalence," the mission said in a joint statement.

Suma Chakrabarti, DFID's permanent secretary, emphasised that what Kenya had achieved was "progress and not victory", adding that the government needed to take a more vocal approach in relations with donors.

"The government should be in the lead with the donors supporting them and not the other way round," said Chakrabarti.

Piot told reporters there was a need to ensure that funds earmarked for the anti-HIV/AIDS campaign were kept in "one basket" to minimise the possibility of national priorities being disrupted by funding shortfalls.

There was also a need to ensure that prevention and treatment programmes complement each other, while making provision for the increasing number of children orphaned by AIDS, he noted.

Kenya's health minister, Charity Ngilu, said that 240,000 HIV positive Kenyans were in need of antiretroviral (ARV) treatment, adding that the government was making efforts to increase the number of patients receiving the drugs from a current 24,000 to 95,000 by the end of the year.

Her ministry, Ngilu added, would soon hire 4,000 extra health workers to help administer ARVs to those who needed them, so as to help slow down the rise in the number of orphans.

Kilimo said that her ministry's policy now was to encourage communities to take care of orphans and vulnerable children. "We need to support communities to take care of their orphans," she said.


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