Shocking Rise In HIV Prevalence In Africa

Armen Hareyan's picture
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Kenya’s HIV and Aids prevalence rate has increased to nearly eight per cent, according to a new study to be released Tuesday

Just when Kenyans were beginning to celebrate last year’s announcement that the prevalence rate had dropped to 5.1 per cent, the Government is expected to announce that the rate is actually higher.

Based on a new study conducted last year, the findings show HIV prevalence to be higher than last year’s 5.1 per cent and the 6.7 per cent captured by a 2003 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey.

The study, 2007 Kenya Aids Indicator Survey (KAIS), shows HIV prevalence among pregnant women to be on the rise, returning a figure higher than the 7.3 per cent recorded in the 2003 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (KDHS).

Last year an upbeat Government announced a decline based on statistics from antenatal clinics: “Kenya is one of three African nations that recently has made significant progress in HIV/Aids prevention and treatment programmes.”

But these new findings from a study said to have cost about Sh400 million (US$6 million), have shocked the Government, with officials said to be sharply divided on whether to release the figures.

Several meetings, including a Cabinet discussion, seem to have finally decided to release the statistics after agreement on what to tell the public about the discrepancy in the HIV prevalence trend.

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Similar studies in Uganda and Tanzania have not been released several months after they were completed.

It is understood these studies, which are using higher populations in their samples than even the respected Demographic Health Surveys, consistently show higher HIV prevalence rates.

According to the 2007 KAIS, Nyanza Province led in infections, followed by Nairobi, Coast, Rift Valley, Western, Eastern, Central and North Eastern.

Upward trend

But Nairobi and Central registered a decrease in the prevalence rate, with other provinces recording increasing rates compared to the 2003 KDHS findings.

Similarly, while urban areas have higher infection rates compared to rural areas, prevalence rates in the latter seems to be on the upward trend.

The KAIS study also looked at the prevalence of herpes simplex virus-2 and syphilis and their co-infections with HIV. Prevalence of syphilis infection was higher in the rural areas than urban ones, with males being most affected.

As the country ponders on these new developments, the findings raise some pertinent questions of what is really going on in the HIV and Aids field.

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