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Young women lead in new HIV infections - study

Women aged between 15 and 24 years account for 21 per cent of new HIV infections in the country, a new report says. The report says approximately 88,620 new HIV infections occurred among adults and 12,940 among children last year.

Health Cabinet Secretary James Macharia yesterday launched the report titled The National HIV and AIDS Estimates 2014 alongside a roadmap that aims for zero new infections by 2030.

The report shows annual AIDS-related deaths in Kenya have drastically dropped since 2003. It points out that 108,535 less people died of AIDS-related causes in 2013 as compared to 2003.  "Approximately 58,465 people died of AIDS-related causes in 2013 compared to 167,000 who died in 2003," it reads in part.

The report attributes the drop to wider access to Antiretroviral therapy (ART) drugs especially after the roll-out of ART in 2003.

The national estimates also point out a drop in HIV incident rates for people between the ages of 15 to 49 years from 0.62 per cent in 2000 to 0.44 per cent in 2013. New HIV infection for persons above 15 had also dropped by 15 per cent from 105,000 in 2000 to 88,620 in 2013, with the decline among children dropping from 44,000 in 2000 to 12,940 last year.

Despite the decline in different levels, the HIV prevalence rate among young women between the ages of 15 and 24 years was still high, accounting for 21 per cent of all new HIV infections in Kenya. In his speech during the launch, Macharia said the estimates compiled by the National Aids Control Council (NACC) and the National AIDS and STIs Control Programme are key data for target setting, planning, resources allocation and tracking progress.

"Kenya's HIV prevalence stands at 5.6 per cent for adults aged between 15-49 years with a HIV burden of 1.6 million HIV infected. This makes Kenya the fourth highest HIV epidemic country in the world," said Macharia. He added that the estimates also show that despite the progress made in coverage of services and uptake, there were still 100,000 new infections annually.

He said the roadmap provided information in terms of the number of people infected, those who need treatment, number of mothers in need of mother-to-child treatment and county residents dying annually. "The new infections will not take us to where we want to go," the CS added.

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