Let us end the epidemic
Kenya has today joined the world in celebrating AIDS Day while the alarming cases of the disease have become a worry in the country. The theme for the 2020 observance is “Ending the HIV/AIDS Epidemic: Resilience and Impact”.
The global HIV epidemic is not over and maybe accelerating during the COVID-19 pandemic, with a devastating impact on communities and countries.
The country is losing at least 57 people every day to HIV and Aids-related illnesses, even as it registered progress in the fight against the disease, new data from the National Aids Control Council (NACC) shows.
In its 2020 HIV Estimates, NACC reports that 20,997 people died from HIV and Aids-related diseases nationally, with Nairobi registering the highest number of deaths at 1,693.
With the lakeside county of Kisumu having the second-highest number of deaths at 1,542, translating to daily mortality of about four people, Dr. Kapinde Eric from Kisumu County Teaching and referral hospital- OBGYN department says, “a person would rather be positive and knowing about it than negative and not knowing”
NACC data also shows that people between the ages of 35 and 49 constituted the highest proportion of HIV deaths, accounting for a fifth of all deaths linked to the disease.
Dr. Kapinde adds, “From my experience with the youth, most of them only come to the hospital to get PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) after unprotected sex. Unfortunately, some even take the medication for 28 days without testing themselves or their partners assuming that the significant other could be positive”
Dr. Glory a pharmacist from Kiambu County says “In our developing countries accessing these drugs (ARVs) is not easy considering their cost. So the Global fund has supported us by providing free drugs so that patients can access them. I am not sure how we would hack this if they withdrew”
AIDS-related deaths are the leading cause of death among adolescents and young people in the African continent.
“My advice to the youth… early detection of the disease means early and effective management and a great support system for them. Testing is affordable in facilities and now even easier with rapid tests provided. With the current accessibility of medication, care, counseling, and monitoring, we can overcome this…This also includes the availability of Prep medication which helps in the prevention of risks in contracting the virus. HIV is preventable with the use of condoms and in addition knowing your partner’s status. However, if contracted then, it’s not a life sentence, it’s treated.” adds Dr. Glory
Her sentiments being echoed by Dr. Kapinde saying “if anticipating unprotected sex simply have a testing kit at home…OraQuick and bioline are simple to use and affordable”
WHO says there is a need to prioritize the vulnerable, youth, and key populations to ensure that those affected by HIV do not fall through the cracks of health care disruptions during COVID-19. Key populations include people who use drugs, men who have sex with men, sex workers, transgender people, and people in prisons that are disproportionately affected by HIV.
Now is the time for us to once again make a leap in our response to work together to end COVID-19 and get back on track to end HIV by 2030. On World AIDS Day 2020, WHO is calling on global leaders and citizens to rally for “global solidarity” to overcome the challenges posed by COVID-19 on the HIV response According to WHO.