Kenyan health advocates reach out to women to boost war against HIV/Aids


Sixty-nine year old Kenyan Josephine Naliaka lost one of her daughters to HIV/Aids two years ago. Her another daughter, who is currently bed-ridden, could succumb to the same disease in the near future.

The elderly farmer who is taking care of five children blames witchcraft for her daughter’s sickness and no amount of explanation based on science will convince her otherwise.

Naliaka is torn between tending her small farm located at a remote village in western Kenya and taking her ailing daughter to the physician.

“I hear my daughter has that disease that kills but I don’t believe it as I raised her in a morally upright manner. The same was said of my other daughter who died in 2015 but I know my enemies are behind my daughters’ suffering. I believe God will do his will, but for now I am doing my best to raise their children,” Naliaka told Xinhua on Thursday.

It is now over 30 years since the first case of HIV and Aids was reported in Kenya but there are people like Naliaka who are yet to be convinced the disease exists.

According to Augustine Odhiambo, an HIV expert, one of the reasons why Kenya is yet to achieve zero infections despite all the resources directed towards the war against the virus is ignorance from sections of the populations who still don’t believe in the existence of the HIV virus.

“As of how and why some sections of the population don’t believe in the existence of the HIV virus is still a conundrum to even people like me who have spent years raising awareness on the virus. There is also a section of the population who are well aware of the virus but they slip into denial whenever one of their own is infected,” said Odhiambo.

Odhiambo hopes a new initiative by stakeholders in the war against HIV and Aids targeting women living with the virus will breathe fresh hope in the fight against its spread which remains high among women between 15 and 24 years.

The initiative involves large-scale clinical trials for an injectable HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) among uninfected women.

Kenya is among other six African countries where trials of the new long-acting injectable drug known as cabotegravir (CAB) will be conducted among some 3,200 HIV-uninfected, sexually active women.

The first of its kind, the trial will be the first large-scale clinical trial of an injectable medication for HIV prevention in sexually active women aged 18 to 45 years.

If successful, Odhiambo told Xinhua the trials will give the war on HIV the much needed boost as the greatest challenge remains controlling new infections.

“We have done our best but success especially in preventing new cases has eluded us. The trials to me are a new dawn in this war and my hope is that after four and half years — the period under which the trials will be conducted, we will have the answer to our question on how to prevent new infections especially among women,” he added.

Notably, in sub-Saharan Africa, more than 60 per cent of all people living with HIV are women.

According to Odhiambo, the development of safe alternative options for PrEP could increase HIV prevention choices for women.

Over the past few years, Kenya has put its right foot forward in the fight against HIV and Aids. The Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) is also carrying out antibody mediated prevention in which women are given an anti-HIV antibody called VRC01 as an intravenous infusion after every eight weeks to establish its safety and efficacy at preventing HIV infection.

About 1,500 sexually active women aged between 18 and 40 have been enrolled for the trials. Enditem

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