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We must not relent in war against Aids



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The world marks the International Aids Day today, which is an occasion to review and reflect on the progress made in tackling one of the confounding challenges in our generation.

When the International Aids Day was introduced some 30 years ago, then the challenge was information, public awareness, and strategies for stopping infections and treatment.

Today, the circumstances have changed. Information and public awareness is no longer a challenge. There is adequate knowledge about the causes of the scourge and protective measures to curb or manage it.

Statistics from UNAids show that three out of every four infected know their status, hence are able to make conscious decisions on managing their conditions. Infections have declined substantially.

The discovery of antiretroviral drugs has remarkably prolonged lives and those living with the HIV can comfortably go about their activities and achieve their goals.

While in the past contracting HIV equated to life sentence, to date, millions live with it because of ARVs. Available figures indicate that out of the 36.9 million people living with HIV globally, at least 21.7 million access ARVs, hence able to better their lives.

New infections have declined by some 47 percent since 1996.

On the local front, Kenya has equally achieved key milestones in managing the scourge. Kenya Aids Response Progress Report 2018 shows that there is a noticeable decline in new infections and related deaths.

Some 1,493,400 people were infected in Kenya as of end of last year, compared to 1,599,500 in 2013.

New infections had climbed down by half to 52,767 last year compared to 101,600 in 2014. Access to ARVs has expanded. The number of deaths related to HIV has gone down. All these indicate that major milestones have been realised.

Despite the progress in mitigating the impact of HIV, with the cases of new infections declining and enhanced access to drugs for those infected, the threat remains pervasive. Moreover, it has taken new permutations.

In Kenya, fresh records show, new infections are increasing among the youngsters; those aged between 15 and 24, an indication that this is the highest risk group and for whom quick and specific interventions must be devised.

This is worrying because these youngsters have more knowledge and are well-exposed, hence should be able to avoid infections.

Given the circumstances, the onus is on governments, international agencies and the civil society to devise specific strategies to avoid new infections and expand access to the drugs.

While recognising that the campaign to combat HIV/Aids has yielded results, the devastation still remains and hence the imperative to continue with the crusade.

More resources must be sourced and deployed to sustain and enhance the campaign.