HIV Kisumu County lead, Programme officer Dorothy Oketch during a National Syndemic Diseases Control Council (NSDCC) workshop at Tom Mboya Labour College - Kisumu on November 28, 2023. [Nathan Ochunge, Standard]

Fisher folk activities, truck drivers, early sexual debut and cultural practices are still the leading risk factors for HIV/Aids infections in the Nyanza region.

According to statistics, Kisumu County stands at number two nationally with 14.5 per cent in HIV prevalence, with Homabay leading at 15.2 percent, Siaya at 13.2 per cent, and Migori at 9.7 per cent.

On the other hand, mother-to-child transmission rates stand at 5.3 per cent in Homabay, 5.3 per cent in Kisumu, 5.0 in Migori, and 4.3 per cent in Siaya County as compared to 8.6 nationally.

HIV Kisumu County Lead Programme Officer Dorothy Oketch also notes that other risk factors include men having sex with men, female and male sex workers, people who inject drugs, and low socioeconomic status.

She, however, notes that the establishment of youth-friendly centres has helped in the fight against HIV in the region.

“These services are organised by youth groups. Also, collaboration with the ministry of Education, where there are school health programmes, training of teachers on HIV, and engagement in technical working group meetings has worked in the fight against HIV,” she says,adding that, for example, the region has managed the prevention of mother-to-child services for pregnant and breastfeeding adolescents and young mothers with a current mother-to-child transmission rate of 5.3 per cent as of 2023 from the previous 8.7 per cent in Kisumu.

Ms Oketch notes that the political support from offices of the spouses of the governors, who are champions of matters HIV has also helped with the virus management.

Among the opportunities she says can be taken advantage of to reduce the cases further is using support networks, partners, political buy-ins and even strengthening of the multi-sectoral approach to adolescent needs.

She says there is a need for the involvement of local leaders and influencers, as well as peer education programmes.

Her counterpart, Justus Olando, one of the community representatives and specialists in HIV management in Kisumu County, adds that some of the approaches and initiatives in the prevention of mother-to-child transmission have been mapping of pregnant mothers by Community Health Promoters (CHPs) to attend antenatal care services to increase linkages among positive clients.

Mr Olando says they also have prevention of mother-to-child support group meetings which are done monthly.

“Alongside sensitisation and training of CHPs on various HIV programme areas to improve integration including on preventive aspects such as Prep, Voluntary Male Circumcision, HIV testing and condom use, we also do follow up of clients at the community level and defaulter tracing in coordination with the clinical partner,” he adds.

Also among their lead actions are community dialogue and open action days with a focus on maternal and prevention of mother-to-child transmission.

“We also do advocacy on triple threat, gender-based violence, pregnancy, and sexually transmitted infections which are precursors to HIV. We also have support groups meeting through mother-to-mother led groups and joint case discussion between the community and facility clinical partners,” explains Olando.

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