Death rate of Kenyan HIV positive adolescents rises

NAIROBI: The mortality rate of adolescents living with HIV and Aids is on the rise, despite a general decline of the HIV prevalence rate in the country.

This is according to the latest Kenya Aids Survey Indicator (Kasi) and subsequent research that has been done by different stakeholders in the health sector.

Sylvia Ojoo, professor of medicine at the University of Maryland attributes this to the low adherence to ARVs once the teenagers go to secondary schools. "Having worked with adolescents and done research on issues involving their health, I can say that a lot of them shy away from taking their medication because they fear stigma from their peers. Most of them go with the medicines to school, but they never take them," said Prof Ojoo.

She added that most educational facilities have not come up with a robust system that can support students living with HIV. "Parents and guardians are also failing because they are not willing to come out and talk to teachers and other health practitioners in school on how the students can be guided to take their medication," she said.

She was speaking during the first adolescent health symposium organised by the Ministry of Health and other partners to address evolving challenges in adolescent health.

The United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) Chief of HIV and Aids, Gilbert Nandra, said despite a lot of effort being made by several stakeholders in the fight against HIV, emphasis is not being placed on adolescents, yet they comprise 24 per cent of Kenya's population.

"A lot more needs to be done to ensure issues concerning teenage health are talked about. And the talks need to involve the adolescents too," said Dr Nandra.

In the Kasi report, about 150,000 adolescents between 10-19 years are living with HIV, yet campaigns have always focused on children and adults.

The report also revealed that the age at which young people engage in their first sexual encounter is getting lower and more than 20 per cent of teenagers are reported to have had their first intercourse by the time they are 15 years old.

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HIV and AidsKenya Aids Survey Indicator (Kasi)ARVs