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Don't roll back progress in war against HIVAids

 HIV prevalence in Kenya stood at 10.5 per cent in 1996. [iStockphoto]

December 1 commemoration of World Aids Day coincides with a shortage of condoms in the country, an occurrence that threatens gains made in the fight against HIV/Aids.

It does not help matters that donors like The Global Fund, GAVI, UNFPA and the US President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (Pepfar) started a gradual withdrawal of their funding for HIV/Aids programmes in 2019 after Kenya was upgraded to a middle-income status.

Apparently, these programmes are designed to give much-needed support in low-income countries. The US, in particular, has supported HIV/Aids programmes in the country since 2003. The support has been through massive funding, provision of free ARVs and other related services under the Pepfar programme.

The reduction in Pepfar funding, which now stands at Sh7.3 billion, down from Sh17 billion, has negatively impacted an estimated 1.5 million people living with HIV/Aids, according to data from the National Aids Control Council. 

It is therefore incumbent upon the government to find ways of fully funding the war against HIV/Aids before 2027 when the funding Kenya still gets will finally run out.

Gains made against HIV/Aids should not be clawed back to expose poor Kenyans to diseases they can ill afford to treat or manage just because donors have withdrawn their support. According to a 2020 report by the Kenya National HIV Survey, HIV prevalence in Kenya stood at 4.9 per cent, down from a high of 10.5 per cent in 1996. 

The HIV/Aids prevalence rate should be lowered further, but there is the danger that with reduced funding, lack of condoms and testing reagents in public hospitals, infections could go up this festive season when both the youth and adults tend to throw caution to the wind. Reports of high incidences of STI infections in young children should warn of the danger that lies ahead unless serious steps are taken to end HIV/Aids infections.