As Kenya marks World Aids Day 2020 Tuesday, stakeholders in the fight against HIV/AIDS are warning against easing of ongoing efforts to eradicate the virus in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) Country Director Dr. Samuel Kinyanjui, says the world risks compromising gains made in the fight against HIV/AIDS with focus shifting to the management of COVID-19 disease, the latest of viruses to devastate the globe. ‘This year, Covid-19 has devastated communities across the globe and it continues to remain on the spotlight. The World must not forget about HIV/AIDS. This is a pandemic that has ravaged communities over the last 30 years. We must fight to protect the gains made. Observes Kinyanjui.
As the world marks this year’s World AIDS day under the theme “Komesha HIV and Covid-19, tuwajibike”, Kinyanjui says two pandemics require the globe to work together and each country to act responsibly if the war is to be won.
According to Kinyanjui, the Covid-19 pandemic has threatened to erode gains made by AHF Kenya, which works in partnership with National AIDS Control Council (NACC) and National AIDS and STIs Control Programme (NASCOP) in contributing to the global goal of controlling HIV/AIDS. The Covid-19 containment measures which included a dusk to dawn curfew as well as restriction of movement had greatly affected their clients, some of whom have been on treatment for more than 15 years.
“There was less movement of patients to the clinics almost by half, which posed a danger of some skipping treatment. With the closure of businesses, most of the patients who live from hand to mouth were not able to take their daily drugs since they could not afford a daily meal.” Says Kinyanjui.
The organisation was forced to make quick adjustments to avert a crisis, which included providing ARV drugs to their clients that could last them longer than the usual weekly or monthly dose. For instance, a dose that could last three months or six months for clients whose health was stable.
The effects of the coronavirus pandemic evidenced by missed targets, with the organization which had planned to test 275,000 persons, recruit additional 18,000 clients living with HIV into the treatment program missing out on HIV testing target by 30 percent.
“There has been massive urban to rural migration almost like an exodus due to job losses, and most of our clients on treatment moved out. We are not able to keep track as to whether they are continuing with treatment or not” bemoaned Kinyanjui.
Kinyanjui however says that recent milestones in the management of HIV/AIDS where one will be injected periodically, instead of the daily ARV drugs will help address some of the challenges. “We have come a long way from the days where ARVs used to be served in a bowl almost like a meal twice or thrice in a day in THE early 2000s, to now where a tablet is swallowed daily. The future looks brighter because there are long term treatments being tried in several countries where one may require one injection every six months or once a year because adherence to treatment is critical in this fight” Notes Kinyanjui.
The recent revelations indicating that teenage pregnancies are on the rise in the country, according to Kinyanjui, calls for proactive action with the obtaining situation a pointer that young people are engaging in unprotected sex. Amid the revelations, AHF has been providing airtime to teenagers to enable them participate in virtual debates and also facilitate them to make facemasks, sanitizers and hand washing equipment during the coronavirus pandemic period.
And as Kenya joins the rest of the world in marking World AIDS Day, Kinyanjui is calling on global leaders and stakeholders in the fight against HIV/AIDS to sustain ongoing efforts to finally wipe the disease out of the global map.