Empower adolescents to fight HIV scourge
Today is World Aids Day and every year, the world gathers to reaffirm its commitment to eradicating Aids as a public health threat.
Also on this day, the world pays tribute to persons lost to AIDS-related illnesses. Even as Kenya honours the memory of the more than two million lives lost, it also recommits to supporting the 1.4 million currently living with the virus or the syndrome.
The theme for this year’s World Aids Day is ‘Let Communities Lead’ which, among other things, highlights the importance of community-led responses working alongside other public health systems in addressing HIV-related stigma, and discrimination and providing prevention education and interventions to support treatment adherence.
Kenya has made remarkable strides in its HIV response, with the number of people living with HIV on treatment increasing significantly to more than 1.29 million last year and an impressive 89 per cent of them achieving viral suppression.
However, there is a growing concern over adolescent pregnancies and Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) concerning new infections in the country. This a serious threat that must be addressed.
According to the National Syndemic Diseases and Control Council (NSDCC), some of the proposed interventions towards this course include promoting access to HIV diagnosis and treatment services to address the triple threat challenge of new infections, pregnancies and sexual and gender-based violence among adolescents and young people.
There is also a need to empower adolescents and young people as agents of change through health education, provision and distribution of menstrual hygiene packs. Equally significant, is the emphasis on ante-natal care to safeguard the mother and child’s health.
Data by the council indicates that Kenya fell short of achieving the target to reduce mother-to-child HIV transmission rates to less than five per cent by 2020, recording a transmission rate of 8.6 per cent last year.
All said and done, this is a journey and we must keep tightening the belt, even as we laud the Government for increasing financial injection into the HIV commodity pipeline by Sh1 billion to prevent supply disruption.
We also support the Government’s agenda to end Aids in children by 2027 as part of the country’s commitment to the Global Alliance. The time is now to take a strong stand and make up for lost ground for the sake of Kenya’s children and the population for the future. And this will take the efforts of everybody.