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Homa Bay has highest HIV prevalence

Reproductive Health - By Graham Kajilwa

Homa Bay County is leading the country’s 47 counties in HIV infections.

The county’s prevalence rate is 19.6 per cent, which is four times the national average of 4.9 per cent.

It is followed by Kisumu (17.5 per cent), Siaya (15.3 per cent) and Migori (13 per cent), according to preliminary results of the 2018 Kenya Population-Based HIV Impact Assessment (Kenphia) report released yesterday.

National Aids and STI Control Programme (Nascop) head Catherine Ngugi said counties in western Kenya have had high prevalence rates for a long time.

“There are several factors,” she said. “One of them could be that people with HIV are living longer.”

According to a Kenya National Bureau of Statistics report released in December last year, the life expectancy of men and women living with HIV stands at 61.3 and 66.6 years, respectively.

Overall, the World Health Organisation has Kenya’s life expectancy at 66 years.

The Kenphia report collected data from across the country between June 2018 and February last year.

The report shows that Busia has a prevalence rate of 9.9 per cent, Vihiga (5.3 per cent), Uasin Gishu (5.5 per cent), Taita Taveta (5.2 per cent), Mombasa (5.6 per cent), Kitui (5.7 per cent), and Nyeri (5.1 per cent).

Samburu, Tana River, Garissa, Wajir, Mandera, West Pokot, and Kiambu have a prevalence rate of less than two per cent.

Lowest prevalence

Garissa (0.1 per cent), Tana River (1.1 per cent), Wajir (0.2 per cent) and Mandera (0.2 per cent) recorded the lowest prevalence rates.

Public Health Programmes head Joseph Kibachio, however, warned that the figures don’t mean there are no HIV infections in North Eastern.

These counties are known to be among hard-to-reach areas, which would make collection of data a challenge. But a technical team from Columbia University, which took part in the survey, Centre for Disease Control (CDC) and Nascop, said the numbers were a true reflection of HIV prevalence in the region.

“For North Eastern, the prevalence has been low for a long time, but this is the first impact assessment report results from the counties,” said Dr Ngugi.

Peter Young, who represented CDC, said: “I do not think the low prevalence rate we are seeing in North Eastern has anything to do with access challenges, but a reflection of the reality on the ground.”

Dr Young said Kisii and Turkana counties' prevalence of 6.1 and 6.8 per cent, respectively, were higher than expected.

Andrew Mulwa, who heads the health committee of the 47 counties, said the results were key to planning.

“There are those counties with prevalence rate of less than two per cent and at the same time we have some with higher prevalence rates than the national average of 4.9 per cent. Even if a county has zero prevalence, it is not time to relax,” said Dr Mulwa.

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