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Kenya is one of the countries that have been hard hit by the AIDS epidemic, with the country reporting over 100,000 new HIV infections every year. In 2005, the country was ranked 4th in the world by HIV population and 17th by the HIV/AIDS prevalence rate (WHO 2005).
Statistics released by the Ministry of Health indicate a bipolar trend regarding HIV incidences, with Homa Bay, being ranked the highest in the number of reported HIV/AIDS infections cases, having close to 27 out of 100 people living with the AIDS virus. On the other hand, Wajir County has just one person out of every 500 living with the virus. Indeed, the country is the red! As a result of this the government has put in place various measures to help deal with this killer monster. However, there still exists flaws and challenges as far as combating HIV and AIDS is concerned. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines HIV as the Human Immunodeficiency Virus and AIDS as Acquired Immune Deficiency syndrome. HIV/AIDS is a spectrum of conditions caused by infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
The financial challenge is one of the most highly ranked bottle necks to combating HIV and AIDS in Kenya. As a result of the country lacking adequate capital, it has been unable to purchase drugs such as antiretroviral to help reduce the effect of the virus in the body. This has resulted into the country relying heavily on drug donations from organizations such as the world health organization among others. In addition, the country is unable to carry out awareness on HIV and AIDS.
Food is a basic human need and the intake of a nutritious diet is crucial in the management of HIV and AIDS. However, the country lacks sufficient funds to supply the dietary requirements of HIV and AIDS patients. As a result of this the Kenyan government has resorted into borrowing.
Another challenge facing the prevention of HIV/AIDS in Kenya is corruption, discrimination in distributing condoms and failure of the communities to use them effectively. The government has actively promoted the use of condoms. However, many people still find condoms difficult to acquire. In addition, even where condoms are widely available, this does not guarantee their use. The 2014 Kenya Demographic and Health survey revealed that only 40% of women and 43% of men with multiple partners in the 12 months, reported using a condom the last time they had sex (Coovadia, 2005).
In addition, HIV Stigma and discrimination, is comparatively high in Kenya thus it also forms a bottle neck when it comes to HIV/AIDS prevention. Many people living with HIV and AIDS face high levels of stigmatization and discrimination, a situation which deters many people living with HIV especially the vulnerable groups, from seeking vital services (Hogan et al., 2005).
Sex workers and people who inject with drugs pose a challenge to the Kenyan government in its efforts to combat the prevalence of the AIDS virus. In a study conducted in 2011 among people who inject drugs in Kenya, an estimated 18.3% of new infections were among those who take drugs via injection. Condom use and safe injecting practices are rare among this group and are thus the cause of the high rates of transmission of HIV and AIDS.
Limited Resources for HIV Prevention in the country is another challenge when it comes to HIV and AIDS prevention. Today, the need to do more with existing resources is greater than ever. To achieve a higher level of impact with every federal prevention shilling, the country is pursuing a High-Impact Prevention approach that works to match cost-e?ective, scalable interventions to heavily a?ected populations and geographic settings to maximize reductions in HIV incidence (Merson, O'Malley, Serwadda, & Apisuk, 2008).
Many Kenyans have become complacent about HIV and AIDS. Too many Kenyans no longer view the AIDS virus as a serious concern. A recent survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that the percentage of people who rank HIV as a major health problem is substantially lower than it was a decade ago. Even more troubling are studies showing that among some of the populations with the highest rates of infection, many people do not recognize their risk, or they believe HIV is no longer a serious health threat. Each new generation needs to be reminded of the still-serious nature of HIV and the importance of prevention. More than decades ago after the first HIV/AIDS incident was reported in the country the sense of national crisis may have waned (Lagakos & Gable, 2008).
Data on new HIV/AIDS infections is not extensively available as the data on prevalence. Therefore, even though efforts have been made to include incidence, it would be necessary for the countries’ HIV/AIDS data collection systems to include incidence since prevalence alone does not explain the epidemic.
In addition, there are limited articles specifically on HIV/AIDS prevention strategies; this poses a great challenge in combating the pandemic as information on prevention strategies is not readily available a situation which results to heavy reliance on information from websites of different organizations. In addition, this information may not be readily up to date.
Some of the strategies that can be used to combat the AIDS epidemic include;
1. Increasing availability and access to HIV/AIDS counselling and testing
The Kenyans who have become complacent about HIV and AIDS should be counselled and reminded that the disease has no cure. In addition, counselling and testing is a key behavior change strategy. The individuals who test HIV negative (Mwaura 2009). In addition, the government can introduce behavior change programs and delay sexual behavior in young people.
2. Setting up rehabilitation sites
The government should encourage the set-up of rehabilitation centers to help vindicate the people who inject with drugs and the sex workers.
3. Setting up prevention programmes in the country
The country should set up more bodies responsible for coordinating the response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, with objectives of reducing HIV infections and stigma such as The National AIDS control Council (NACC) and The Kenya AIDS Strategic Framework.
4. Condom Distribution and Use
Many rural areas in kenya are inaccessible due to poor road networks a situation which makes condom distribution difficult and challenging (Cherutich NASCOP). The government should therefore increase efforts in infrastructural development.
5. Funding the HIV response
The country should organize more funds in addition to the High Level Steering Committee for sustainable financing which has proposed the establishment of an HIV and Non Communicable Disease Trust Fund to pool additional and private local resources and thus avoid borrowing from the World Bank. The Kenyan government needs to come up with more sustainable methods of funding to sustain and scale up existing prevention efforts.
6. Adopting methods to reduce stigma and discrimination
The Kenyan government should adopt methods geared towards reducing stigma and discrimination among the general population towards people living with HIV/AIDS such as protest strategies, education strategies and contact strategies.
7. Introducing AIDS education in schools, universities and colleges
The government should introduce AIDS education in schools, universities and colleges in order to increase AIDS awareness among the youth. The country should put in place more of education policies such as the Education Sector Policy on HIV and AIDS 2013 which aims to develop programmes to enhance HIV prevention, care and support for school pupils as well as the education personnel(teachers).
8. Harm Reduction
The Kenyan government should distribute more needles and syringes to people who inject drugs to reduce the risk they expose themselves to when sharing needles.
9. Developing strategies to curb cultural and legal barriers
In order to get more people in kenya to test for HIV, the Kenyan government should develop strategies to curb some cultural barriers which prevent people from undertaking HIV/AIDS tests.
10. Introducing Peer based programs
The government should encourage peer based programs since such interventions have generally been found to be effective in reducing unsafe behaviors. (Kirby 2001).
No single strategy would be a solution to the HIV/AIDS problem in the country. As such, a combination of methods and strategies tuned into the specific needs of the country would yield great results. Thus a comprehensive approach using all methods in combination as appropriate, targeting all the populations as deemed necessary and directed to all sectors is what would work best. An HIV prevention approach based solely on one element does not work and can hinder the AIDS response.
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