First Lady Margaret Kenyatta has sounded the alarm over new HIV infections among young people in the country.
She said the progressed Kenya has made against HIV/AIDS in the past 20 years risk being eroded by high infection rates among adolescents and young people.
“Available statistics are worrisome. For instance, it is unacceptable that 21% of new adult HIV infections should occur among young women of between 15-24 years of age annually,” she said.
The First Lady added: “Unless we control new HIV infections among this group, our aspirations of becoming a vibrant middle-income economy in the next few years is in jeopardy.”
The First Lady – who called for concerted effort in the fight against HIV/Aids – was speaking today during this year’s World Aids Day at City Stadium, Nairobi.
She emphasised the need to pool resources to ensure the country achieves zero new HIV infections and AIDs related deaths while at the same time eliminating stigma and discrimination associated with the scourge.
“This is a journey that I am personally committed to and will continue to play my part in ensuring that all the efforts aimed at getting to zero are sustained and positive results achieved,” she said.
“And the starting point is for each one of us to go for testing for AIDS to know our status. This way, every individual will be able to make an informed choice to protect himself/herself and the loved ones,” the First Lady stressed and called for behaviour change among the youth to stem new infections.
“If we are seeking to achieve our Vision 2030, then we can only ignore the plight of the youth at our own peril. The time to act is now to safeguard the future generation,” she said.
To boost the war against HIV/Aids among young girls and women, the First Lady launched the Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-Free, Mentored Safe women (DREAMS) project.
DREAMS is a Sh21 billion project which falls under the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). Kenya will receive Sh3 billion from the DREAMS project to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS among adolescent girls.
“A HIV-free generation isn’t just a dream: Let’s make it a reality here in Kenya,” the First Lady said.
She lauded the US Government through PEPFAR, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Girl Effect for initiating the DREAMS project, a multi-pronged approach to fighting HIV/AIDS.
The First Lady acknowledged that the choice of Kenya as one of the 10 countries implementing the DREAMS project in Africa is a sign of goodwill and continued partnership between Kenya and the US.
She assured of the Government’s commitment to allocate resources for HIV/AIDS response to complement support from development partners, noting that other non-communicable diseases such as cancer and diabetes are slowly taking root with devastating socio-economic consequences at household and national levels.
In recognition of the First Lady’s commitment to fighting HIV/Aids, US Ambassador Robert Godec requested her to be the goodwill ambassador of the DREAMS project. The First Lady accepted the request.
Godec commended Kenya for its achievements in the fight against the scourge, led by President Uhuru Kenyatta and First Lady Margaret.
“Kenya represents one of the global leaders in the fight against HIV/Aids. The US Government will continue being Kenya’s partner in this fight,” he said.
Other speakers at the event were Director of Medical Services and Principal Secretary nominee Nicholas Muraguri, National Aids Control Council Director Nduku Kilonzo and Nairobi Deputy Governor Jonathan Mueke.