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BY JOAN WANJIKU,NAIROBI,1ST DEC 2020-A new report now says at least 1.5 million Kenyans are living with HIV and more than 20,000 deaths were recorded in 2019 alone.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, HIV and AIDS appear to have taken the back seat, but the report suggests that the AIDS virus is still very much alive and well in Kenya since the early 80s when it was first discovered in the country.
Statistics from the National AIDS and STI Control Program (NASCOP) showing that infections in the country currently stand at 1.5 million, with more than 41, 000 registered in 2019 alone.
The researchers say the figures could be higher since many Kenyans are yet to test to know their status owing to the stigma attached to the virus.
What should however worry Kenyans is the number of lives lost, with 2019 recording 20,000 deaths.
Latest records showing that 10 counties that had initially seen an improvement were now on a steady rise.
The counties of Homa Bay, Siaya, Kisumu, Migori, Kiambu, Kajiado, Mombasa, Kisii, Nairobi, Nakuru, Uasin Gishu and Kakamega registering an increase of 1000 infections in 2019.
While fewer men gain the confidence to test, the distribution of prevalence by gender showed that of the 1.5 million infections, 942,653 were women while only 565,752 were males.
It also emerged that the transmission of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, from mother to child was still prevalent as HIV-positive mothers who lacked knowledge on the prevention measures often infected their babies during breast-feeding.
Figures showed that 21 per cent of babies turned positive between the ages of 18 to 24 months while 17 per cent between 24-36 months.
But with the advent of COVID-19, experts fear the numbers may be worse in 2021.
The country has over the years invested resources in battling the epidemic, but COVID-19 has since shifted the attention and resources of the government towards fighting the global pandemic, leaving HIV and other other ailments on the back banner.
NASCOP and the National AIDS Control Council (NACC) however continue to sensitise the public on prevention measures, a reminder that the other virus – HIV – is still a real and present danger, even in the face of COVID-19.