September 17, 2013

Kenya Sees Drop in HIV Prevalence

HIV_NewsNairobi — Kenya's HIV prevalence fell from 7.2 percent to 5.6 percent between 2007 and 2012, according to the preliminary results of the latest Kenya AIDS Indicator Survey (KAIS), but officials fear that unless the country reduces its reliance on donor funding for its HIV programmes, these gains will not be sustainable.

"Prevalence is falling despite the fact that more HIV-positive people are living longer [as a result of being on HIV treatment], so we are clearly moving in the right direction," said Peter Cherutich, head of prevention at the National AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections Control Programme (NASCOP).

"We attribute the fall in prevalence mainly to fewer new infections, which are a result of putting more people on treatment," he added.

Studies have shown that earlier antiretroviral (ARV) treatment can reduce the risk of heterosexual HIV transmission by as much as 96 percent.

Programmes working

More than 70 percent of eligible HIV-positive Kenyans - those with a CD4 count (a measure of immune strength) of 350 or lower - are on ARVs. Eighty percent of them have "viral suppression", meaning the virus is at undetectable levels, and have a low risk of infecting others with the virus.

The country also has a number of HIV-prevention interventions - from prevention of mother-to-child transmission programmes to medical male circumcision and counselling and testing campaigns - that have contributed to lower infections and higher rates of treatment.

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