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NEWS INDEPTH: Men shun HIV drugs, frustrate war on disease

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Kenyan men are shunning the highly effective antiretroviral therapy (ART), resulting in higher cases of deaths from HIV/Aids than women, new data shows, reflecting gender barriers in the fight against the disease.

Ministry of Health data shows that 713,500 infected women are on ART compared to 322,100 men.

This is despite the ministry increasing ART centres from 2,700 to 3,325 in response to the rising number of new infections annually.

Even as the number of adults in need of ART increased by over two-folds from about 627,900 in 2010 to 1.38 million in 2017, men are still not receptive of the treatment as the females.

ARTs have seen women lower deaths resulting from HIV/Aids despite their high infection rates.

New infections among women remain higher than that of men accounting for 158,264 cases or slightly above 60 per cent of the total 260,457 since 2013.


Men had 102,194 new infections in the same period, which coincided with the high number of deaths.

The National Aids Control Council (NACC) report shows that 13,829 men died last year compared to 10,074 women fatalities in the same period, a trend that has continued for the last five years.

The report further shows that 82,933 men have died since 2013 accounting for 56 per cent of the total deaths that stood at 147,322 in 2017.

The number of women who died in a similar period stood at 64,395 or slightly above 40 per cent of the total fatalities.


The ministry said an estimated 2.2 million Aids deaths have occurred throughout the HIV epidemic until 2017 indicative that the more people with HIV on medication the more deaths that could be averted.

At the same time, HIV testing among the youth is also low, especially among the young men. The failure by some of the men in the adult population to take their treatment could be detrimental given that the ministry says about 635,500 Aids deaths have been prevented since the scale-up of ART began in 2004 through to last year.

New infections among women are at 27,233 while that of men stand at 17,556.

Nairobi leads in the new infections amongst the youth with 2,587 cases followed by Homa Bay at 1,852.

The three lakeside counties of Siaya (1,641), Kisumu (1,630) and Migori (1,143) follow closely.


The five counties account for 61 per cent of all new infections among youth aged between 15 and 24.

Mombasa leads in the counties with the least number of new infections at 562 cases followed by Kakamega with 596 and Kiambu which recorded 730 cases last year.

The NACC report shows that 55 per cent of girls aged between 15 and 19 tested for HIV while 44 per cent of boys within the same age group sought to know their status.

The number of men aged between 20 and 24 tested much lower with only 67 per cent of them in this age group finding out their status.

Young women in this age group, however, were more empowered and keen on knowing their status with 91 per cent of the female population in the targeted group testing.

In absolute numbers, new HIV infections among all age groups declined from 77,200 in 2010 to 52,800 in 2017, indicating a 32 per cent decline in the number of new annual infections at the national level in spite of population growth.

The NACC says the improvement is the result of increased and better campaigns following the increase in total expenditure from Sh121 billion in 2016/2017 from Sh73 billion in 2015/2016.

There was also a decline in the total number of people living with HIV in Kenya — estimated at 1.5 million in 2017 — including 105,200 children.

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