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NSDCC enhances HIV response during 2024 WRC Safari Rally

As curtains came down for the 2024 WRC Safari Rally on Sunday, stakeholders in the fight against HIV remained upbeat that their efforts were successful in preventing new infections.

With thousands of rally enthusiasts thronging the famed Naivasha town to witness first-hand rally drivers compete for the coveted title through the torturous terrain, fears remained rife the event could emerge as a congregation of risk providing fertile ground for new HIV infections especially among young people.

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Over the four days of the rally, The National Syndemic Diseases Control Council (NSDCC) in partnership with Nakuru County government and stakeholders deployed over 100 of its staff supported by community health promoters across six spectator stages.

According to NSDCC CEO Dr Ruth Masha, more than 75 percent of new HIV infections (about 22,000) are among young people between the ages of 15 and 34 years.

According to NSDCC CEO Dr Ruth Masha, about 15,000 young people sought HIV services within Naivasha with over 10,000 people issued with HIV self-test kits.

“We took the opportunity of the large number of young people who had thronged Naivasha for the Safari rally by ensuring that young people are having fun, but fun that is responsible. We have been providing services the entirety of this period, we have also been giving condoms to those who are sexually active and try to insist that it is important for them to be safe.” Said Masha.

Masha says more than 75 percent of new HIV infections (about22,00) are recorded among young people between the ages of 15 and 34 years.

“Alcohol and substance use is the biggest driver of HIV among young people because 6.5 percent of them say when they had sex, it was because of other substances leading to the act. Statistics from NACADA indicates that about 11.6 percent of boys start using drugs in schools, a trend that continues in colleges and universities.” She observed.

Many of the safari rally fans received prevention services such as condoms, and information on pre-exposure prophylaxis drugs and post-exposure prophylaxis drugs

According to Masha, increase in the number of sexually transmitted infections among sexually active people remains another challenge facing HIV response.

“Sexually transmitted infections are going up as a result of failure by sexually active individuals to use protection. If this is not checked, STDs will increase even as cases of HIV reduce. STDs can increase the risk of one acquiring HIV from associated lesions” Noted Masha.

This even as she warned against wrong use of pre-exposure prophylaxis and post-exposure prophylaxis drugs which she said had recorded highest uptake especially among sex workers and high-risk adolescents.

“If you are planning to have unprotected sex, you have to take pre-exposure prophylaxis 7 days before the act. Some of the people who come seeking for post exposure prophylaxis come late, over 72 hours after the exposure making it ineffective.”  She said.

Alcohol and substance use has been cited as the biggest driver of HIV infections among young people

Enhanced efforts to decisively deal with the threat posed by HIV has seen the country on course to end HIV/AIDS as a public threat by 2027 ahead of the global target of 2030 witnessing a 78 percent drop in new HIV infections over the last ten years.

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