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AIDS in Kenya
According to the 2008 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic, the global percentage of people living with HIV has stabilized since 2001. In sub-Saharan Africa, many national epidemics have even begun to decline. However, new information from Kenya suggests that the HIV prevalence has increased from 6.7% of the population in 2003, to a range of 7.1% to 8.1% in 20071. Of the 1.1 million HIV-positive people, it is estimated that between 130,000 and 180,000 are children ages 0 to 142. Infection is rapidly reversing the gains in child survival that had been won over in past decades.
Couple the devastating numbers of HIV-infected children with the staggering numbers of children orphaned by the disease, and the economic future of Kenya’s youth appears bleak. The National AIDS Control Council and the National AIDS and STI Control Programme reported that as of 2007, there were a total of 2,430,000 children orphaned by one or both parents3. A total of 1,149,000 of these children were orphaned because of AIDS3.
An analysis of the 2003 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (most recent study is ongoing) found that orphaned and fostered children are significantly less likely to be attending school than non-orphaned and non-fostered children of HIV-negative parents. Children of HIV-infected parents, who are not orphaned or fostered, were also significantly less likely to be attending school and more likely to underweight and wasted4.
Since 80% of Kenya’s population is categorized as rural, the greatest burden is in rural areas. Due to lack of information in regards to treatments available in rural areas, less than 40% of the people desperately needing anti-retroviral therapy are receiving it2. AIDS awareness is also not reaching rural areas. The percentage of the population who use condoms regularly is as low as 1.2% (2003)2.
It is out-of-school youth in particular who tend to engage in early and risky sex. Children in school are more likely to know about transmission and prevention than those out of school. By 2005, 60% of schools had life-skills education as part of the curriculum3.
Antiretroviral treatment programs and community awareness are critical for mitigating the AIDS epidemic’s impact. Other countries have made great strides and are having incredible results. A recent study in Uganda found an 81% reduction in child mortality among uninfected children of adults receiving antiretroviral therapy, as well as a 93% reduction in orphanhood1. Achieving universal treatment access across sub-Saharan Africa by 2015 would result in a number of orphans approximately five million below current projections1.
It is imperative the children stay in school, not only for their economic future but for their health. A child in school has access to AIDS awareness, as well as treatment program knowledge. Nuru Center recognizes this, especially in rural areas where the need is that much greater. The scholarships provided by Nuru Center patrons give children, who have no hope, a chance for a bright future. Another goal for Nuru Center is to empower the rural communities with awareness programs. General knowledge regarding HIV prevention and risky behavior, along with treatment availability information is critical to drastically reducing the number of new transmissions and prolonging the life those already infected.
1. 2008 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic (UNAIDS)
2. Epidemiological Fact Sheet on HIV and AIDS Kenya (UNAIDS, WHO, UNICEF)
3. UNGASS 2008 Progress Report, submitted by Kenyan National AIDS Control Council
4. Education and Nutritional Status of Orphans and Children of HIV-Infected
Parents in Kenya (USAID)