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Kenya celebrates World AIDS day, Covid-19 worsened shortage of condoms, HIV testing kits, ARVs

1st December, 2021

Nancy* a mother of four who is living with HIV was anxious after contracting Covid-19 when she was four months pregnant with twins. The 43-year-old from Gilgil in Nakuru County was uncertain of her safety and that of her babies. The viral disease presented with dizziness, persistent dry cough, severe headache, general body weakness, and breathing difficulties leading to her admission to the Nakuru Level Five Hospital.

She was discharged after ten days, but worries of infecting her babies with HIV grew after failing to undertake viral load tests due to a lack of testing kits. Nancy nurtured the pregnancy blindly- and at 34 weeks, she underwent an emergency C-Section at the Margaret Kenyatta Mother-Baby Wing, at the Nakuru Level Five Hospital. Despite successful delivery, the baby's HIV status was not known due to a lack of PCR testing kits. They were instead given prophylaxis and put on zidovudine, nevirapine (drugs that prevent transmission of HIV from mother to child).

As Kenya celebrates the World AIDs Day marked annually on December 1, Nancy is among hundreds of mothers who are fighting HIV amidst complications occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic. Procedurally babies should be tested immediately after birth, at six weeks, six months, 12 months, and 18 months-when if they test negative, they do not use ARVs. But if infected, are started on the daily lifelong journey of using ARVs and Septrin.

Newborn babies should be put on exclusive breastfeeding for six months. Nancy is confused about whether to stop breastfeeding as it poses a high risk of passing the virus to the twins.