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Economy

HIV prevalence highest among the educated, women

From left: Dr Kevin De-Cock of the Centre for Disease Control and Health secretary James Macharia and JICA country representative Hideo Eguchi during launch of the Kenya Aids Indicator Survey. Photo/DIANA NGILA
From left: Dr Kevin De-Cock of the Centre for Disease Control and Health secretary James Macharia and JICA country representative Hideo Eguchi during launch of the Kenya Aids Indicator Survey. Photo/DIANA NGILA  Nation Media Group

About 1.2 million Kenyans are living with HIV, with the prevalence rate higher among women and the educated, a new survey has shown.

The Kenya Aids Indicator Survey report launched in Nairobi Tuesday by Health secretary James Macharia showed that the prevalence rate of HIV had reduced from 7.2 per cent in 2007 to 5.6 per cent in 2012.

“The report provides a clear indication of the progress we have made in the war against HIV and a means to evaluate our response and impact of the interventions and in the development of future prevention care and treatment programmes,” said Mr Macharia.

According to the survey, the rate of infection was higher among the better educated compared to those who had no primary education.

The percentage of adults living with HIV is slightly higher among those who live in urban areas compared to those in rural areas.

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Knowledge of HIV status among those infected tripled over the last five years due to free testing campaigns, leading to a 100 per cent growth in the number of people tested.

The report showed that more than half of those infected were not aware of their status. “Expanded testing strategies, especially for men and children, with family testing approaches will ensure that more people are linked to appropriate prevention or treatment services,” Mr Macharia said.

The survey showed a drastic change in the number of infections across different age groups. While in 2007 the highest cases of infections were reported among people aged between 25 and 34 years, the 2012 study showed that the prevalence was highest among those aged between 45 and 54 years.

“The changes within the age groups could be attributed to the fact that there are fewer new infections among young people and that more people have taken to HIV treatment and are living longer,” said Kevin De-Cock, country director for the Centre for Disease Control.

The survey was based on the 2009 national census and did not include households from North Eastern region because of security reasons. The previous 2007 Aids Indicator Survey showed that the region had a prevalence rate of one per cent.

Coast, Rift Valley and Nairobi regions witnessed decreased cases of HIV while prevalence in Central and Nyanza regions was static.

Nyanza registered the highest number of people living with HIV despite voluntary male circumcision campaigns aimed at reducing HIV spread. Uncircumcised men are five times more at risk of contracting the disease compared to their circumcised counterparts. For children aged between 18 months and 14 years, 104,000 were found to be HIV positive, with 42,640 being diagnosed prior to the survey.

Widows and widowers were more prone to infection than the married and those living with partners. The lowest prevalence was among the single while the highest infections were among married couples.

There has been a 25 per cent decline in new infections among African countries, though South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya are listed among countries with the greatest HIV burden.

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