New HIV infections drop to 78,600 per year

National Aids Control Council (NACC) Director Nduku Kilonzo. PHOTO | FILE
National Aids Control Council (NACC) Director Nduku Kilonzo. PHOTO | FILE 

Kenya is still battling with new HIV/Aids infections with tens of thousands catching the virus every year.

National Aids Control Council (NACC) Director Nduku Kilonzo Tuesday said that although the number of new infections has dropped from 101,560 cases annually in 2014 to 78,600 currently, there is need for more awareness of the deadly viral infection.

The national HIV stigma index of 45 per cent is threatening to roll-back the positive gains already made, Dr Kilonzo said.

“Although there is a fall in new infections the numbers are higher than annual deaths, which poses a bigger epidemic,” said Dr Kilonzo.

“We are making pooled efforts, majorly through cumulative performances across county governments where each has a programme of some sort to fight the HIV scourge but society seems to have lost control to support the fight.”

Of the 78,600 new HIV infections, 72,000 were among adults above the age of 15 years. New HIV infections among children between zero to 14 years account for 6,600 of the current total.

HIV can be transmitted from mother to child at birth or during breastfeeding, through unprotected sex with an infected partner, or blood transfusion from an infected victim.

Dr Kilonzo said that stigma and discrimination remains an issue that needs to be addressed.

NACC has, for instance, partnered with the Strathmore Business School’s Institute of Healthcare Management to develop a policy analysis framework on HIV prevention, care and management.

“We want to strengthen training in learning institutions and also to shorten the time of research and practice in order to curb new infections as well as fight stigma before it takes a toll on our economy,” she said.

Kenya currently spends Sh18 billion on treating and managing HIV infected people translating to about Sh200 per person annually.

The newly released UNAIDS Global Aids Update 2016 shows that Kenya has the largest treatment programme in Africa, after South Africa, with 826,000 people living with HIV being on treatment as of 2015.

South Africa has nearly 3.4 million HIV positive people on treatment, more than any other country in the world.

“Three out of 10 HIV infected people in Kenya is on anti-retroviral treatment,” said Dr Joshua Gitonga, head of monitoring and evaluation.