950 New HIV Cases in Nairobi, Kenya, Caused by Recent Violence, Sexual Assault, Official Says
Widespread sexual assaults during postelection violence in Kenya have resulted in an estimated 950 new HIV cases during the past two weeks in the capital of Nairobi, Murigi Kinyanjui, CEO of Nairobi-based Crime Scene Investigations, said on Monday, the East African Standard/AllAfrica.com reports (Mwai, East African Standard/AllAfrica.com, 1/29). The political and tribal violence broke out after Kenya's president Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner over Raila Odinga, the opposition presidential candidate, by a narrow margin earlier this month (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/17).
According to Kinyanjui, more than 500 women and girls have been sexually assaulted in Nairobi since the postelection violence broke out, 95% of whom were assaulted by an average of three people. Kinyanjui added that using a model based on the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, he was able to estimate the percentage of assailants living with HIV/AIDS. "Estimating that the dominant participant initiated" the sexual assault and that "all were spontaneous, implying that no protection was used, then the subsequent participants contracted" HIV, Kinyanjui said. He added that the situation is complex because some women already were living with HIV/AIDS at the time they were assaulted. Most sexual assaults have occurred in the low-income areas of the city, where HIV prevalence is high, Kinyanjui said. He added that figures for new HIV cases in the Kenyan cities of Mombassa and Kisumu, as well as in areas of the country's Rift Valley region, will be released when the data are compiled. More than 1,200 women have been sexually assaulted nationwide, according to the Standard/AllAfrica.com (East African Standard/AllAfrica.com, 1/29).
Reuters on Wednesday examined how thousands of "uprooted Kenyans are not getting the HIV medicines they need to survive," as well as how increasing sexual assaults in refugee camps are contributing to the spread of the virus, according to public health experts. More than 250,000 people have been displaced in the month since the elections, and about 15,000 of them are HIV-positive, according to statistics from the country's Ministry of Health and cited by UNAIDS. Among the 15,000 displaced HIV-positive people, 2,550 were taking antiretroviral drugs before violence "forced them out of their homes and cut off their access to the drugs," according to Reuters. An unknown number of additional HIV-positive people are stranded in their homes and have no access to treatment because local clinics are closed or they are "too afraid to risk the journey," Reuters reports.
Elisabeth Byrs, a spokesperson for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said that Kenya's HIV/AIDS situation could worsen unless the violence and tensions are curbed soon. She added that the risk of HIV transmission is very high in refugee camps, where sexual attacks on women and children are increasing (MacInnis, Reuters, 1/30).
In related news, European Union foreign ministers in a recent statement indicated that development aid to Kenya could be withheld if Kibaki and Odinga do not agree to a power-sharing agreement, the AP/Kansas City Star reports. According to the AP/Star, about 6% of the country's budget comes from foreign aid, and the government has said it will not be influenced by outside groups (Houreld, AP/Kansas City Star, 1/28).
Jendayi Frazer, the U.S. top envoy for Africa, said that the U.S. is reviewing all of its development aid to Kenya in light of the violence in Kenya's Rift Valley. Frazer said that the violence is "clear ethnic cleansing" against the country's Kikuyu people and that neither Kibaki nor Odinga have done enough to stop the violence (Vogt, AP/Globe and Mail, 1/30). The U.S. expects to provide Kenya with more than $540 million in aid this year, $481 million of which will be allocated for HIV/AIDS projects in the country. State Department spokesperson Sean McCormack earlier this month said, "I think it's pretty safe to say anything dealing with trying to improve the humanitarian situation in Kenya, including the AIDS funding, is just off the table" in regard to reducing aid (AP/Kansas City Star, 1/28).
Frazer said that most U.S. aid to Kenya goes to HIV/AIDS and malaria efforts, as well as to nongovernmental organizations. "It will be counterproductive of us to stop the HIV aid support when the population is in crisis," she said, adding that nevertheless, "we are in a process where we are looking at all of our aid to Kenya" (AP/Globe and Mail, 1/30).