By Caroline Katana
A nongovernmental health organisation Stawisha Pwani is calling on county leadership to embrace best practices of fighting new HIV infections in the Coast.
A report, released by the National Syendemic Diseases Control Council (NSDCC) formerly NACC, indicates that ten (10) counties – Nairobi, Kisumu, Homabay, Siaya, Migori, Nakuru, Mombasa, Kakamega, Kisii and Uasin Gishu – account for 57 percent of all new HIV infections recorded in 2021.
Speaking to journalists after best health intervention practices presentations by health workers in Diani, Kwale, Stawisha Pwani project director Doctor Patrick Oyaro says the project is implemented in four counties in region.
“This project seeks to strengthen County health systems with a focus on HIV and TB prevention, treatment and reproductive to achieve sustainability in quality health services in Kwale, Mombasa, Kilifi and Taita Taveta.”
Dr Oyaro says Mombasa county has the highest numbers of HIV infections in the region.
According to him areas with high prevalence in the county are Likoni, Changamwe and Jomvu subcounties. Factors attributed to this are larger populations in those subcounties and
increased infrastructure activities occasioned by main highway connection.
In collaboration with health partners, the national government He said national government has digitalised HIV prevention and treatment systems.
“According to research HIV patients can take upto one to six ARVs unlike before where they were entitled to one month tablets and also health centres have embraced the use of computer systems to follow up with patients on ARVs usage ,” he adds.
Gifton Mkaya, health county executive committee member in Taita Taveta County says the county has a higher HIV prevalence than the national average.
“The hotspots are along the main Mombasa-Nairobi highway like Voi Town apart from Taveta and Holili trading centres along Kenya-Tanzania border,” he adds.
The County has an ART coverage of less than 70 percent and a mother-to-child transmission of more than 11.5 percent.
The USAID, Stawisha Pwani Project, has also boosted laboratory services in health centres to ensure effective services delivery.
“The nongovernmental organisation has provided laboratory equipments in our health centres to ensures all samples of blood is diagnosed on time.”
Stawisha Pwani Project is funding several HIV testing and counsellors so as to provide services in the four counties.
Kwale County has a lower than national average prevalence but with an ART coverage of less than 70 percent.
The HIV incidence is high in the Coastal strip subcounties of Lunga Lunga, Msambweni and Matuga with only the former (Lunga Lunga) getting ease access to health services on both sides of the Kenya-Tanzania border.
In Kilifi County, the HIV prevalence is lower than the national average with an ART coverage of more than 80 percent. The prevalence, however, is higher in the urban areas of Malindi, Kilifi, Watamu, Majengo, Maleleni, Mtwapa, Mariakani and Kaloleni towns compared to rural ones.
This county, in particular, is associated with early sexual debuts which fuel the feminisation of HIV.
It is estimated that 55 percent of persons reported having had their first sexual interaction before the age of 15 years.
Key populations carry a high HIV burden as the prevalence ranges between 15 and 25 percent which is much higher than averages in the four counties and nationally.
They comprise men who have sex with men (MSMs), people who inject drugs (PWIDs), female sex workers (FSWs) and their clients, and prison populations.
The three counties of Mombasa, Kilifi and Kwale have a high proportion of KPs with all having programs for people who inject drugs and clinics for medically assisted therapy.
Priority populations in the four counties include adolescents and young people (AYPs), women living in urban informal settlements, truck drivers, street children, people with disabilities (PWDs), mobile workers, people working in settings of traditional alcoholic brews, mining, and plantation workers, and the fishing communities.
For adolescents, in particular, sex with older partners, and multiple partners are among the factors influencing HIV infections.
Availability and access to family planning/maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health (FP/RMNCAH) services is essential for reducing HIV transmission.
Kwale County, the priority county for FP/RMNCAH interventions has multiple challenges that affect uptake of HIV and FP/RMNCAH services.
A poor road network and long distance to health facilities limits accessibility of health services.
Other barriers include economic, socio-cultural and political factors, lack of access to accurate information, and quality of care.