HIV/AIDS IN KENYA YOUTH IN PERIL:
Kenya is the largest and the fastest growing economy in East and Central Africa region and the most developed in the region according to the World Bank economic index. It is located in the eastern coast of Africa along the equator and shares a large water mass of the Indian Ocean on its south-east border. It is bordered by Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia, south Sudan and the polarized region of Somalia to the north-east.
According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, Kenya has a population of approximately 47 million people with the largest population between the ages of 14 and 54 yrs. The country has a largely tropical climate with low plains and central highlands secondary to fertile plateaus that make the country perfect for agriculture the main economic structure. The country is home to two of the world’s largest and well known mountains i.e. Mt. Kilimanjaro and Mt. Kenya. Agriculture and tourism remains the backbone of the country economic structure accounting for 1/3 of the country’s GDP according to the world- bank. The country largest exports include tea, coffee, horticulture, wheat, vegetables, dairy products, beef and pork. Swahili and English are the official languages secondary to over 48 indigenous languages.
Like many other countries, Kenya has felt the effects of HIV-AIDS within its borders. HIV is usually but not always’ a prerequisite to AIDs; HIV which is a short form of HUMAN IMMUNODEFICIENCY VIRUS, is a virus that affects -or- that leads to an infection that weakens the body immune system. AIDs which is an abbreviation for ACQUIRED IMMUNE DEFICIENCY SYNDROME on the other hand is a condition that develops after the body immune system has been weakened and is unable to fight diseases. The two terms are usually used intertwined with each other but are completely different entities.
HIV is a virus spread through certain body fluids that attacks the body’s immune system, specifically the CD4 cells, often called T cells. Over time, HIV can destroy so many of these cells that the body can’t fight off infections and diseases. These special cells help the immune system fight off infections. Untreated, HIV reduces the number of CD4 cells (T cells) in the body. This damage to the immune system makes it harder and harder for the body to fight off infections and some other diseases. Opportunistic infections or cancers take advantage of a very weak immune system and signal that the person has AIDS. (CDC)
Like most sexually transmitted infections, HIV and AIDs are transmitted through certain body fluids such as blood from an infected person, semen and breast milk. Others are vaginal fluids, rectal fluids and pre-seminal fluids from an infected person. Contrary to many believes, HIV and AIDs cannot be transmitted through touching, kissing, sharing dishes or through bites from insects such as mosquitos HIV does not survive long outside the human body (such as on surfaces), and it cannot reproduce outside a human host. It is not spread by
There is no cure for HIV-AIDs but there are numerous ways of protecting yourself such as practicing safe sex, not sharing needles, and taking antiretroviral medication for those already infected.
The Kenya ministry of health has referred to the diseases as a national threat’ due to the financial and human resource strain its putting on the country in its bid to control, prevent and eradicate the disease among its youth. In a country where over 60% of its population is within the middle age group of 14-54years; that becomes a priority for the country’s future. According to UNAIDS a department of UNITED NATIONS responsible for designing, delivering and monitoring the AIDs epidemic and response in the world, there are more women than men who are HIV positive or who have AIDs in Kenya. As of 2017, there were approximately 860000 women over the age of 15 living with HIV – accounting for about 6.2% of HIV infection prevalence rate in the country. Men accounted for 3.5% of infection rate which amounted to approximately 520000 people; while children between the ages of 0-14 years accounted for 110000 people infected. Likewise the HIV incidence per 1000 population was estimated to be 1.95 of adults over 15 years of age, and about 1.21 HIV incidences per 1000 population of the entire population.
The UN statistical data also showed there were 28000 deaths annually attributed to HIV and AIDs infections. Deaths among adult population over the age of 15 years accounted for 24000 deaths, whereas children below 14 years age accounted for about 4800 deaths. Even though women in the country have higher infection rates than men, there were more deaths reported among infected men (about 14000) as compared to women (10000) annually.
There seems to be a high education rate and information prevalence among the different socio-economic platforms in the country as reported by the UNAIDS special analysis and global AIDs monitoring (2017) report. The UN figures accounted that 95.5% of the entire population had knowledge about their HIV status, with 73% of infected persons receiving antiretroviral therapy, and 92% of population aware of prevention and protection through condom use. This is among the highest figures in the world which has resulted from dedicated grass-root community initiatives and government sponsored educational programs.
As mentioned above, there has been an immense push against HIV and AIDs from community initiatives, government sponsored programs, Non-governmental organizations, individuals and families affected by the disease. This has led to a considerable decline in HIV infection rates in the country. Among the most notable works have been community led through governmental intiatives. Among these agencies is the National Aids council of KenyaNACC (www.nacc.or.ke) which is an autonomous body under the Kenya ministry of health; and which sole responsibility is to track, facilitate, monitor and implement HIV response in the country through the county governments. Other agencies include the National Aids and STI Control programmeNASCOP (www.nascop.or.ke), the Joint United Nations programme on HIV and AIDS – UNAIDS (https://www.unaids.org/en/regionscountries/countries/kenya), the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund UNICEF (www.unicef.org/kenya) which has focused primarily on children’s welfare, and the world health organizationWHO (www.who.org/kenya/).
Other organizations such as the Beyond Zero (https://www.beyondzero.or.ke/) is a private campaign through the office of the Kenya’s first lady and whose focus is maternal and child health care such as reducing infection from mother to child, and eliminating cross- infection through breast feeding. AVERT international which provides education on HIV (https://www.avert.org/professionals/hiv-around-world/sub-saharan-africa/kenya), Aids Healthcare Foundation AHF (https://www.aidshealth.org/), the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric Aids Foundation EGPAF- KENYA (https://www.pedaids.org/country/kenya/), NEPHAK (http:/nephak.or.ke/), and the International HIV/AIDS Alliance (https://www.aidsalliance.org/).
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