Nakuru targets students in bid to reduce HIV prevalence


By PHYLLIS MUSASIA
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The Nakuru County government has taken the fight against HIV/Aids to public schools in a bid to reduce prevalence from 4.2 to 4 percent by 2022.

Among the measures that the county’s health sector has embraced include offering age-appropriate contraceptives and condoms to scale up preventive methods among all age groups.

The groups mainly targeted in the initiative include mature minors, youth outside schools and those in higher learning institutions.

According to Nakuru Public Health Chief Officer Samuel King’ori, sensitisation on HIV/Aids is key to the entire population since it helps individuals to know their status.

Dr King’ori said the county is working together with all departments in the health sector to enhance prevention of opportunistic infections.

According to the Kenya HIV estimates report of 2014, a total of 66,295 people were living with the virus while 48 per cent of the population had not been reached by HIV testing by 2014.

However, significant progress has been made in the HIV response in Kenya with statistics showing a declining trend in prevalence from highs of 14 percent nationally in the 1990s to the current 6 percent.

But HIV continues to contribute to high mortality rates, burdening households and straining the national health systems.

Dr Stanley Wahome, a medical doctor and specialist at Karen Hospital’s Nakuru branch, said that creation of HIV awareness among the youth and students can be done through health education.

According to Dr Wahome, Nakuru is cosmopolitan with the great northern corridor traversing across the county with a number of stop-overs that have become HIV transmission hot spots.

“Every group of people needs to be made aware of HIV and those who actively engage in multiple sexual actions should be advised on the importance of safe sex,” he said.

He added that teenagers should abstain from sex to curb the HIV menace.

Dr Wahome said the country has improved in fighting the HIV stigma with most of the people expressing positive opinions about the disease.

“Introduction of pre-exposure HIV drugs and efficiency of the antiretrovirals (ARVs) has brought a bigger change,” he said.

According to the county’s HIV/Aids strategic plan of 2015/2016 and 2018/2019, Nakuru has a number of sub populations which form key drivers of the epidemic.

These range from vulnerable populations which include adolescents and young people, long distance truck drivers and migrant workers.

The strategic plan outlines a number of drop-in centres established for HIV prevention and care for key populations in Naivasha, Gilgil, Nakuru town and Salgaa.

But it has been observed that the services are under-utilised with the increase in the number of female sex workers being observed.

In 2014, the county had about 4,127 new HIV infections with 199 of them being among children. Pregnant women living with HIV were estimated at 2,583.

There are geographic variations within the county with some sub-counties having a higher burden and being more severely affected than others.

These differences also reflect background socio-economic conditions as demonstrated by the sub-county level HIV surveillance data.

Two weeks ago, Nakuru launched a new health strategic plan which will be used to advocate for, sensitise and implement a package of care and strengthen screening for both communicable and non-communicable diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, reproductive tract cancers and other cancers.

The Health department will also target migrant populations as people from other regions flock in search of livelihood in both formal and informal sectors.


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