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Eliminating HIV In Kenya

The HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa affects adolescent girls more than any other group within the population. As a public health response, a new approach for the elimination of HIV in Kenya emerged which addresses the gender and economic inequality that aid in spreading the disease. This new approach is related to female empowerment eliminating HIV in Kenya with new effective methods.

Health Care System in Kenya

Kenya is home to the world’s third-largest HIV epidemic. Kenya’s diverse population of 39 million encompasses an estimate of 42 ethnic tribes, with most people living in urban areas. Research shows that about 1.5 million, or 7.1 percent of Kenya’s population live with HIV. The first reported cases of the disease in Kenya were reported by the World Health Organization between 1983 to 1985. During that time, many global health organizations increased their efforts to spread awareness about prevention methods for the disease and gave antiretroviral therapy (ART) to those who were already infected with the disease. In the 1990s, the rise of the HIV infected population in Kenya had risen to 100,000 which led to the development of the National AIDS Control Council. The elimination of HIV in Kenya then became a priority for every global health organization.

The health care system in Kenya is a referral system of hospitals, health clinics, and dispensaries that extends from Nairobi to rural areas. There are only about 7,000 physicians in total that work within the public and private sector of Kenya’s health care system. As the population increases and the HIV epidemic intensifies, it creates more strenuous conditions for most of the population in Kenya to get the healthcare they desperately need. It is estimated that more than 53 percent of people living with HIV in Kenya are uninformed of their HIV status.

In addition, HIV disproportionately affects women and young people. After an initiative implemented by UNAIDS in 2013 to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV through increased access to sex education and contraceptives, significantly fewer children are born with HIV. Today, 61 percent of children with HIV are receiving treatment. However, the young women (ages 15-24) in Kenya are still twice as likely to be infected with HIV as men their age. Overall HIV rates are continuing to decrease for other groups within the population, but studies show that 74 percent of new HIV cases in Kenya continue to be adolescent girls.

Female Empowerment Eliminating HIV in Kenya

Women’s empowerment is an overarching theme for the reasons that HIV is heavily impacting the young women in Kenya. A woman’s security in the idea that she is able to dictate personal choices for herself has the ability to hinder or help her well-being.
Female empowerment eliminating HIV in Kenya uses these four common conditions to eliminate HIV:

  1. Health Information – Many girls in Kenya lack adequate information and services about sexual and reproductive health. Some health services even require an age of consent, which only perpetuates the stigma towards sexual rights. Also, the few health services available are out of reach for poor girls in urban areas.
  2. Education – A lack of secondary education for young women and girls in Kenya often means that they are unaware of modern contraceptives. A girl that does not receive a secondary education is twice as likely to get HIV. To ensure that adolescent girls have access to sexuality education, the 2013 Ministerial Commitment on Comprehensive Sexuality Education and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in Eastern and Southern Africa guaranteed that African leaders will commit to these specific needs for young people.
  3. Intimate partner violence –  Countless young women and girls have reported domestic and sexual violence that led to them contracting HIV. Something as simple as trying to negotiate contraceptive use with their partners often prompts a violent response. There has been an increased effort to erase the social acceptability of violence in many Kenyan communities. An organization called, The Raising Voices of SASA! consists of over 25 organizations in sub-Saharan Africa that work to prevent violence against women and HIV.
  4. Societal norms – Some communities in Kenya still practice the tradition of arranged marriages, and often at very young ages for girls. The marriages usually result in early pregnancy and without proper sex education, women and babies are being infected with HIV at a higher rate. In 2014, the African Union Commission accelerated the end to child marriages by setting up a 2-year campaign in 10 African Countries to advocate for Law against child marriages. Research suggests that eliminating child marriages would decrease HIV cases, along with domestic violence, premature pregnancies by over 50 percent.

Young women in Kenya face various obstacles in order to live a healthy life, and poverty acts as a comprehensive factor. Studies show that a lack of limited job opportunities leads to an increase in high-risk behavior. Transactional sex becomes increasingly common for women under these conditions, while they also become more at risk for sexual violence. An estimated 29.3 percent of female sex workers in Kenya live with HIV.

Solution

The most practical solution to tackling the elimination of HIV in Kenya combines HIV prevention with economic empowerment for young girls. The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria is an organization that has worked hard at implementing strategies, and interventions across Africa that highlight women’s access to job opportunities and education. In 10 different countries in Africa (including Kenya), young women can attend interventions in which they learn about small business loans, vocational training and entrepreneurship training. One way that more women in Kenya are able to gain control over their financial resources is by receiving village saving loans. To participate in village saving loans it requires a group of 20-30 to make deposits into a group fund each week. Women within these groups can access small loans, which enables them to increase their financial skills while gaining economic independence. The Global Fund to fight AIDS has cultivated a space for numerous empowerment groups for young women out of school called the RISE Young Women Club. The young women in these clubs often live in poverty and receive HIV testing as well as sexual health education.

Overall, the global health programs that aid in the elimination of HIV in Kenya are continuously improving their strategies by including young women in poverty. The HIV/AIDS epidemic in Kenya steadily sees progress thanks to the collective efforts of programs that empower young women.

– Nia Coleman
Photo: Flickr

HIV Vaccine Trial Begins in South Africa
A new HIV vaccine trial has begun in Johannesburg, South Africa where experts are cautiously optimistic about its potential for success.

The trial, which is funded by the National Institutes of Health, is based on a trial that took place in Thailand and yielded moderately successful results. Thailand trial’s results were controversial because it was tested on a segment of the population with a low risk for infection. The trial in South Africa hopes to remedy this by using members of their own population which have a uniquely high rate of infection and thus puts wider swaths of the population at risk.

The HIV/AIDS death rate has greatly decreased with the increasingly widespread availability of antiretrovirals, yet infection rates continue to increase. Scientists and doctors believe that a vaccine is the only possible measure to successfully eradicate the disease, and many of them believe that this trial could be the beginning of the end for a disease which continues to infect more than 1,000 people daily in South Africa alone.

CNN reports that an estimated one adolescent becomes infected every two minutes worldwide. According to Anthony Fauci, the director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, there is no reason to believe that the HIV/AIDS crisis is over. In the U.S., infection rates have remained steady for the past 15 years in spite of prevention efforts.

Because of the high HIV infection rate in South Africa, scientists believe that an effectiveness rate of 50-60 percent would be sufficient to enter negotiations with drugmakers, although this is significantly lower than most other vaccines.

The study will enroll 5,400 sexually active men and women between the ages of 18 and 35 who are not infected with HIV. They will receive five shots of the vaccine and three boosters over the course of the study, which is expected to yield results in 2020. It aims to provide greater protection from infection and has been adapted for the HIV subtype that is found in southern Africa.

This trial, which is the first HIV vaccine trial in nearly a decade and is only the seventh full-scale human trial in the world, has been met with both skepticism and optimism. Glenda Gray, the president of the South African Medical Research Council, is leading the study. Although she admits that there is no guarantee that the trial will be successful, she remains optimistic about the results.

The HIV vaccine trial in Thailand was run by the U.S. Army, whose Dr. Nelson Michael called the trial “A signpost for vaccine development. This was a yes-we-can moment: the opportunity to become enthusiastic. The door has cracked open. We are all going to try to collectively crash through it.”

Kenya, who will be monitoring the trial closely, is expected to begin a similar trial early next year.

Eva Kennedy

Photo: Flickr

treatment of hiv
While the world’s eye is fixed on the rise of Ebola in West Africa, it misses good news elsewhere about an even more deadly virus—HIV.

Pediatric HIV is one of the most feared diseases, and one with one of the highest risks of preventing children from seeing adulthood. Some 3.2 million infants live with the virus and around 700 are infected every single day.

An HIV diagnosis in an infant has been compared to a diagnosis in an adult at the beginning of the HIV epidemic in the 1980s. To put it more bluntly, it has been called “a death sentence.” Fifty percent do not live past two years old. Three people die of AIDS every minute and nearly 200,000 children died in 2013 alone.

For some time, a child known as the “Mississippi Baby” provided hope. The infant gained fame after being born with HIV but undergoing antiretroviral treatment immediately and testing with no evidence of the virus. Doctors described her as “functionally cured.” The virus recently returned, however and the baby will undergo further treatment.

Despite this setback, the outlook for the treatment of HIV has the ambition necessary for a strong battle. In 2001, the WHO claimed that there might be universal treatment coverage in certain regions of Africa by 2020. A plan called Treatment 2015 has details about how to reach 15 million people with antiretroviral treatment by the year 2015.

Countries like South Africa exhibited signs of massive success. In 2008, death from the disease was rampant and Nelson Mandela’s lethargic successor had no positive impact. But now the country has 2.4 million people receiving antiretroviral drugs and it adds another 100,000 per month. Clinics that dispensed the drugs rose from 490 to 3,540, while nurses capable of prescribing them rose from 250 to 23,000. Life expectancy has increased by 10 years, while new infections are down 33 percent and mother-to-child transmission is down by up to as much as 90 percent.

The success is based mainly on the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, started in 2003 by President George W. Bush. Since then, more than $3 billion has been spent training doctors, building clinics and buying drugs in South Africa alone.

But PEPFAR is set to transition into poorer countries and analysts suggest that this could expose South Africa to another HIV epidemic. Condoms are being used less and teenage girls in particular are contracting the disease at a high rate. But the people and the health minister of the country are confident they will find the political leverage necessary to continue fighting the disease.

– Andrew Rywak

Sources: New York Times, World Health Organization, UNAIDS, National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Disease, USAID
Photo: Huffington Post

hiv-treatment-malawi.opt
Over the last decade, Malawi has reduced its rate of HIV/AIDS infections by 72 percent, more than any other African country. US agencies that combat the virus hope to build on these successes with a five-year effort to improve HIV/AIDS care in Malawi. The effort is coordinated with Malawi’s government and will target seven districts across the country.

The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, an NGO that focuses its anti-HIV work on mothers and children, is spearheading the effort. Funding is provided by the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Centers for US Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

One of the biggest successes to date for HIV/AIDS care in Malawi has been the prevention of virus transmission to at least 7,000 babies. This has been accomplished through lifelong anti-retroviral treatment for all pregnant and breastfeeding women who are HIV-positive. The Foundation’s efforts continue to focus on pediatric preventive care. Its goal to achieve less than a five percent transmission rate from mother to child is well within reach.

Over the next five years, US organizations plan to provide other health care services in addition to HIV/AIDS care in Malawi. One million Malawians will receive counseling, 50,000 adult men and 400,000 pregnant women will receive HIV testing, and lifelong treatment will be provided to at least 25,000 women expected to test positive for the virus.

Despite gains over the last decade, AIDS remains the number one cause of death in Malawi, with about 100 deaths and 30 new infant infections each day. The Malawian minister of health, Catherine Hara, expressed hope that the seven targeted districts will serve as a model for widespread improvements in HIV/AIDS care in Malawi.

– Kat Henrichs

Source: Relief Web
Photo: [email protected]