International Donors Praise Kenya for Decline in HIV Prevalence, Say Some Improvements Still Needed
Officials from UNAIDS, the World Bank and the British and Norwegian governments on Monday following a two-day visit to Kenya said the country deserves "kudos" for its decline in HIV prevalence but said that international donors need to do a better job of coordinating HIV/AIDS programs with the Kenyan government and nongovernmental organizations, VOA News reports. UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot said the Kenyan government has made "great strides" in reducing the country's HIV prevalence rate from nearly 14% in 1997 to about 7% in 2004, according to VOA News. "There are less people who become infected today than a few years ago," Piot said, adding, "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." However, Piot said not enough is being done to help women and the increasing number of orphans in the country (Majtenyi, VOA News, 1/17). In a joint release, officials from the British Department for International Development, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, UNAIDS and the World Bank said the country should scale up HIV prevention efforts aimed at young people -- especially young women -- and improve "care, support and treatment interventions for the increasing numbers of people that will require this in the foreseeable future" (Joint release, 1/17). Piot said international HIV/AIDS groups should "work much more under the priorities and leadership" of the Kenyan government. He added, "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, [and] NGOs and local communities don't have to apply every single year for a grant" (VOA News, 1/17).
Kenyan President Kibaki's Comments
Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki during the visit commended international HIV/AIDS donors for supporting government efforts to "harmoniz[e]" HIV/AIDS programs, Kenya's Standard reports. "Currently, 25,000 Kenyans living with the HIV virus are accessing antiretroviral drugs and the government has set a target of 98,000 persons to access the drugs by the end of the year, with the support of various stakeholders," he said (Standard, 1/17). Kibaki on Friday, during a meeting with leaders in his constituency in Othaya, challenged community leaders to "break the silence on HIV/AIDS" and "castigated" men who knowingly infect young girls with HIV by "luring" them into affairs, the Standard reports (Kareithi, Standard, 1/16). "Such a person should be shot," Kibaki said, adding, "He must be shot. There are no two ways" (Muchire/Maina, Daily Nation, 1/15). Neither Kibaki's office nor the Kenyan police would discuss the president's comments, so it was not clear if the comments were intended to form policy, according to Agence France-Presse. Kenya has capital punishment but has not used it in years, Agence France-Presse reports. Officials from UNAIDS, the World Bank, the British government and the Norwegian government did not address his comments (Agence France-Presse, 1/17). Kibaki also said that Kenyans "must discard some cultural beliefs," including a lack of open discussion of the disease, and he urged Kenyans to abstain from "casual sex," Kenya's Daily Nation reports (Daily Nation, 1/16).