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Sexual violence and HIV transmissions in children eating into health budget, says Nakhumicha

 Health Cabinet Secretary makes her remarks during the launch of the 'End of Triple Threat' campaign for the western bloc in Bungoma County. [Mercy Kahenda, Standard]

Health CS Susan Nakhumicha has reiterated her commitment to fight pregnancies, HIV transmission and sexual-based violence in children.

The CS said the cases are taking a toll on the health budget as survivors are forced to seek medication in hospitals.

“If a woman is fought there is a budget for that. She will go to hospital. If a teen gets pregnant and is infected with HIV, it is a strain on health," said Nakhumicha.

The CS said the HIV budget used to treat patients if prevented can be used to construct cancer centers in all counties across the country.

To prevent the mother-child transition to meet Kenya's target of 2027 set by President William Ruto, the CS asked mothers to take AntiRetroviral drugs(ARVs).

Nakhumicha spoke today in Bungoma County during the official launch of ‘End of Triple Threat’ for the Western region.

“In the past, people with HIV could be known because they were emaciated. But now if someone tests HIV positive, there are drugs" she said.

However, at the same time, she asked individuals to use condoms to prevent HIV transmission and burden.

Data by the ministry reveal that at least 1,377,784 Kenyans are living with HIV, among them 6,869 are children aged between 0- 14 years.

Additionally, at least 20, 053 cases of sexual and gender-based violence were reported among adolescents aged 10 -17 years in 2023.

During the event, Western leaders committed to ending the triple threat in the region.

The leaders drawn from five counties namely Vihiga, Bungoma, Busia, Trans Nzoia, and Kakamega have committed to partner with respective government agencies and partners to end child pregnancies, new HIV infection in children and sexual gender-based violence.

Led by Bungoma Governor Kenneth Lusaka, the leaders committed during the flag-off of the Western triple threat block.

Bungoma's teen pregnancy stands at 19 per cent against 15 per cent national.

People should get tested to know how to prevent themselves against HIV infections, and those found with the disease to know how to manage the disease," said Lusaka.

He added, "The statistics are here with us. Figures do not lie. In Western, there is a problem, more so in Kanduyi constituency.”

In cases of gender-based violence, Bungoma is ranked high with 62 per cent, against 34 per cent nationally.

Beatrice Adagala requested Health CS to table a bill in parliament to have stringent laws taken against perpetrators of sexual-based gender violence.

"Tunataka mswada ambao utakubali wanaume wanaonajisi watoto 'wang'olewe transformer'. (We want to have laws to have men who have sex and pregnant children have their sexual organs chopped off)" said the Vihiga W against children and teen girls.

National Syndemic Disease Control Council (NSDCC), CEO Dr Ruth Laibon Masha said despite early sex contributing to HIV infections in children and adolescents, it is also contributing to increased cases of HPV, which causes cancer.

"Early sex doesn't only risk HIV infections, but we are recording more cases of HPV in these children," said Masha.

The CEO drummed support for HPV vaccination saying it is the only sure way of preventing cancer, a disease that kills at least nine women in Kenya every day.

In a mass camping conducted in primary schools in Bungoma County, at least 2,0000 girls were vaccinated against HPV.

Even as Kenya addresses sexual violence against girls, it is important to include boys in the campaign.

Masha said we have cases of young boys innocently engaging in sex with girls, and because of sexual assault laws, they are arrested and imprisoned.

"...'Romeo and Juliet' is also a big challenge the country is facing. We are having 14-year-old boys in prison, who don't understand what they did.

As we talk to girls, we also want to include boys, we need to ensure not only girls have information on triple threat, but also boys," said Masha.

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