News

    Kenya's Success in Controlling AIDS is Example for Africa

    Derek Kilner

    In its recently released annual report on the global AIDS epidemic, the United Nations lowered its estimates of the numbers of people infected worldwide by 6.5 million. The U.N. says most of the decline reflects changes in the methodology for measuring the extent of the disease. But as Derek Kilner reports for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya stood out as one of the few cases where there has been a genuine easing of the epidemic.

    New figures show that the percentage of people in Kenya living with the AIDS virus fell to 5.1 percent in 2006, down from 5.9 percent a year earlier and 9 percent in the mid-1990s.

    The sustained progress, experts say, is largely a product of widespread changes in sexual behavior. Ruth Nduati, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Nairobi, says one such change has been the age at which girls become sexually active.

    "Among young women there's been a very definite increase in age of sexual debut. It's now at 20 years. It used to be as low as 15 years, several years ago. This takes women out of a pivotal time when they are very, very vulnerable to STDs and HIV," said Nduati.

    Other significant behavioral shifts include a decrease in the number of sexual partners, especially for men, and a rise in the use of condoms.

    In 1999, Kenya's government declared AIDS a national emergency, and the issue was highly visible in the 2002 election that brought President Mwai Kibaki to office.

    The government's efforts are visible in the number of Kenyans receiving antiretroviral treatment, which grew from 3,000 in 2002 to 118,000 in 2006. Similarly, over 400,000 people received voluntary counseling and testing, or VCT, in 2006, up from only 1,000 seven years ago.

    The government's focus on HIV/AIDS has been bolstered by large infusions of cash from foreign donors. Kenya, for example, received over $208 million from America's PEPFAR program in 2006, second only to South Africa.

    Boaz Cheluget, head of monitoring and evaluation at Kenya's National AIDS Control Council, says one of the main reasons Kenya has been able to translate the attention and money into successful programs is that the country's work force is highly skilled.

    "Kenya has an advantage," said said Cheluget. "I think the quality of staff and service provision in any sector is high, and so when we introduce something the implementation is of quality. I have been to many countries, and I can see there are quite a lot of gaps in terms of skilled workforce, in terms of performance, in terms of governance."

    Cheluget says the country's high literacy rate also contributes to the success of projects implemented at the local level.

    In the run-up to World AIDS Day on December 1, Kenya has been holding a number of events to encourage testing. Patrick Obath, managing director for Shell Oil in Kenya, was one of the many business leaders participating at one such event in Nairobi on November 26.

    "We have had HIV/AIDS programs at work since 2002. We have had a policy which was piloted at Kenya Shell and has now been adopted globally by Shell. And in the last three years when we have had VCTs at work, we have had about a 98 percent uptake," said Obath.

    Education efforts have also expanded recently, bolstered by the introduction of free primary education in 2003, and the corresponding rise in school attendance. General knowledge of HIV in Kenya is now nearly universal.

    But with some 230 people still dying every day from AIDS and antiretroviral therapy going to fewer than half of those who need it, AIDS remains a serious challenge for Kenya.

    And the country's success in controlling the epidemic also presents another cause for concern for some experts, including Dr. Nduati.

    "The challenge is that every day you have a new cohort of youngsters who haven't had the experience of seeing an AIDS epidemic visibly," said Dr. Nduati. "Young people today have seen AIDS in a visible way, it's a real message. When the epidemic is not so visible because we've done great work in reducing it, then you will find it harder to convince youngsters of behavior change."

    Cheluget fears a drop in concern may also extend to the political sphere. Unlike in 2002, AIDS has not been a major issue in the election campaign that is currently gaining public attention.

    "In the parties that are competing now, I am not seeing mention of HIV. Maybe there is quite some complacency," said Cheluget. "Many parties, they haven't focused. They are saying they are going to deliver for people. There is no mention of HIV/AIDS"

    And there is a concern about the financial sustainability of Kenya's AIDS programs. The scaling up of treatment, testing, equipment, and staff has been expensive. And while the government has made an effort to contribute funds for such activities, over 98 percent of the bill is being paid by foreign donors.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora