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Kenya Pledges New Funds for HIV / AIDS Fight


Kenyan government says the percentage of people contracting HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, has been cut almost in half from 14 percent of the population in 2000 to 7.1 percent in 2007

Kenya has marked World AIDS day with a pledge to allocate new funds to fight AIDS and HIV infection. There are doubts as to whether the country can meet its pledges amid a looming funding crisis.

In its latest report, the United Nations says Kenya has reduced the number of AIDS related deaths by up to 25 percent in the past eight years. The report says prevention programs have helped stabilize the rate of infections.

According to the Kenyan government, the percentage of people contracting HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, has been cut almost in half from 14 percent of the population in 2000 to 7.1 percent in 2007.

The government says the reduction is linked to a dramatic increase in the number of people, who have access to anti-retroviral drugs. It says it hopes to reduce new HIV infections by 50 percent in the next five years.

But a potential funding crisis has cast doubt on whether Kenya can maintain its fight against the disease.

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria recently rejected Kenya's $270 million application for funds, saying it had concerns about Kenya's lack of transparency in handling past donations.

Marking World AIDS Day at a rally in Nairobi, the leader of the parliamentary committee on Kenyan reforms, Danson Mungatana, said despite the setback parliament would make every effort to provide adequate funding for HIV/AIDS programs.

"We will support government efforts in every way possible, as parliament, to increase the money that needs to go to HIV and AIDS in this country," said Mungatana. "We know that what they have is not enough but this is an issue we are willing to look at afresh in parliament."

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch says among 150,000 Kenyan children living with HIV, about half have no access to treatment. The group says adults are twice as likely to receive anti-retroviral therapy than children, and a lack of adequate food increases the risk for infants of dying from the disease.

Human Rights Watch senior researcher Julian Kippenberg adds that HIV-infected mothers often become unable to care for their children.

"HIV-positive mothers are often victims of discrimination and get kicked out of their house by their husband or family and end up living in squalid conditions with their children," Kippenberg. "So they are in a very difficult position to look after a child. They are in a very difficult position to look after themselves."

The situation for children with AIDS in Kenya is mirrored throughout much of eastern and southern Africa. The two regions have the world's highest numbers of child deaths from HIV.

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