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UN AIDS Chief Urges Donors to Better Coordinate with Kenya in AIDS Fight

Officials from the World Bank, the United Nations, and donor countries wrapped up a two-day visit to Kenya Monday to evaluate the coordination and effectiveness of AIDS efforts in the East African country.

There were kudos and criticisms for Kenya's fight against AIDS and HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

The executive director of UNAIDS, Peter Piot, told journalists Monday that Kenya has made great strides in reducing its HIV-prevalence rate from almost 14 percent in 1997 to seven percent in 2004.

"There are less people who become infected today than a few years ago," he said. "Secondly, there's far more money than a few years ago, so more resources are coming in. Thirdly, there is strong leadership within the government and at various levels in the country."

Mr. Piot said there was also what he called "good progress" in the efforts of government ministries, private sector groups and donors to coordinate their programs and services, and for people to have access to treatment.

But Mr. Piot said, despite the progress, there are still too many Kenyans - 1.5 million people - living with HIV/AIDS.

He said there is an increasing number of AIDS orphans in Kenya, and that not enough is being done to help them and women, who are more vulnerable to contracting the disease.

Mr. Piot urged international donors to better coordinate assistance with the Kenyan government and private agencies.

"We in the international community should work much more under the priorities and the leadership of the country," he said. "If all the donors put their money together in one basket, that money can be used then to fund the priorities of the nation so that there will be less interruptions of funding, that NGOs [non-government organizations] and local communities don't have to apply every single year for a grant."

Mr. Piot was one of four officials from the U.N., World Bank, and British and Norwegian governments who met with Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki, senior government officials, and non-government groups to assess Kenya's progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Kenyan Health Minister Charity Ngilu told reporters her government is committed to the AIDS struggle, and thanked donors for their support.

"With the resources that you have made available to us, and also with the government resources that we expect to put in place, we will expect that by the end of this year, we should be able to put about 95,000 Kenyans who are living with AIDS on ARVs [anti-retroviral drugs]," she said.

Ms. Ngilu said next year, her government aims to supply 140,000 Kenyans with anti-retroviral drugs.