Source: Nairobi Star
New government guidelines in Kenya are proposing that all Kenyans be routinely screened for HIV when they visit any health facility.
According to a report in the Star newspaper published in Kenya, Peter Cherotich, head of HIV prevention at National Aids and STIs Control Programme, NASCOP, said four in every 10 Kenyans are yet to be tested for HIV/Aids. The controversial guidelines are set to be implemented over the next year.
Lorna Dias the MSM Programme Coordinator at Liverpool Voluntary Counselling andTesting, LVCT, an international centre for HIV testing related research and services delivery in Kenya said, “I believe that the NASCOP position may be alluding to keeping in line with the on-going PTC – provider-initiated testing and counselling model which is an opt out service for all who go into hospital presenting symptoms that fit a particular criteria. One is advised to test but they can opt not to test. Ideally, it does not translate into mandatory testing by any means.”
According to information available on the Avert website, in Kenya an estimated 1.5 million people are living with HIV; around 1.2 million children have been orphaned by Aids; and in 2009 80,000 people died from Aids-related illnesses.
AVERT is an international HIV and AIDS charity, based in the UK, working to avert HIV and Aids worldwide, through education, treatment and care.
While Kenya’s HIV prevalence peaked in the year 2000 and, according to the latest figures, has dramatically reduced to around 6.3 per cent. This decline is thought to be partially due to an increase in education and awareness, and high death rates.
The website claims that many people in Kenya are still not being reached with HIV prevention and treatment services and that just under half of adults who need treatment and only 1 in 3 children needing treatment are receiving it.
Kenya’s HIV epidemic has been categorised as generalised – meaning that HIV affects all sectors of the population, although HIV prevalence tends to differ according to location, gender and age. Nearly half of all new infections in 2008 were transmitted during heterosexual sex whilst in a relationship and 20 per cent during casual heterosexual sex.
HIV testing has widely expanded across Kenya since the beginning of the millennium. In 2000 there were only three voluntary counselling and testing (VCT) sites nationwide; by 2007 there were almost 1,000.
In Kenya today, already alongside voluntary testing, provider initiated counselling and testing (PCT) has expanded and is now available in 73 per cent of health facilities. PCT is when individuals are offered a HIV test whenever they go to a health facility, rather than patients having to ask for a test.
One of the 2010 targets set in Kenya’s National HIV and AIDS Strategic Plan 2005/06 -2009/10 (KNASP II) was to test 2 million Kenyans for HIV annually. In order to reach the target, international development organisations and the Kenyan government introduced a number of new initiatives. One such programme, launched in late 2009, aimed to provide door-to-door HIV testing and counselling for those living in remote areas with little access to health care. This scheme raised concerns from Human Rights Watch, who urged the government to ensure principles of counselling, consent and confidentiality would be properly adhered to.