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New headache for HIV patients on ARVs

Health & Science

Cancer was the last thing Sally Agallo thought she would face in her fight with HIV.

The 50-year-old had battled all opportunistic infections, from tuberculosis, herpes zosta, pneumonia to skin infections, as a result of being HIV positive.

But then a diagnosis came back positive in 2007 for cervical cancer, and she was in shock.

Just by being diagnosed with HIV in 1999, after losing two babies in quick succession-at two and seven months- the 30-year-old then had attempted suicide by jumping from the ferry in Mombasa.

She was not sure what she would do with a cancer diagnosis.

“I had been on Anti-retroviral therapy(ARV) since 2003 and my health was good,” she said.

The cervical cancer, she said, was diagnosed at stage two.  It had already spread to some parts of her colon which had to be surgically removed to stop the cancer from spreading.

As a result, Sally now lives with not only HIV, but also ostomy as she cannot pass waste the natural way.

“I do not have a job yet I need at least two ostomy bags a day and one costs Sh600. My livelihood is from talks that I give,” she said.

Sally’s predicament is the current hurdle facing people living with HIV that has taken the Ministry back to the drawing board.

While Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki on Thursday during the Maisha HIV and AIDS 2019 conference asserted that both deaths and new infections have reduced, she noted that Non Communicable Diseases(NCDs) have become the new threat to the fight against the virus.

The CS said the ministry is keen to make an impact on HIV even as we implement Universal Health Coverage(UHC).

“There is need to lay preventive measures on NCDs and draw more practical pathways on how multi-sectoral synergies can be leveraged,” said Kariuki.

She said Kenya has however witnessed reduced infections from 101,000 cases in 2013 to the current 46,000. Kenya registers almost the same number-47,000-as new cancer cases annually with 33,000 deaths.

From the latest Kenya Aids Progress Report by the National Aids Control Council, the deaths related to HIV have also gone down from 53,000 in 2010 to 28,200.

“The little steps we have made, are worth celebrations but for UHC to become sustainable, these gains have to be safeguarded,” she said.

Nelson Otuoma who chair National Empowerment Network of People living with HIV/AIDS in Kenya (NEPHAK) said there are people who are diagnosed as young as 12 years and with the help of Anti-retroviral therapy drugs, they expect to live even past their 90s.

“But even if you get tested and it is found that you have attained viral suppression that will not stop hypertension from killing you. It is my appeal to consider HIV treatment as part of the NHIF package,” he said.

Kenya has approximately 1.5 million people living positively with 1.2 million on ARVs.

National Aids Control Council chair Angeline Siparo said despite the little gains, more needs to be done.

"We are already in discussion to bring NCDs on the table. A lot of HIV persons live for long only for them to die from various NCDs like diabetes, cancer," she said.

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