New Initiatives Aim To Reduce Spread of HIV Among Couples in Kenya
New HIV/AIDS guidelines in Kenya will include door-to-door testing services in an effort to address the increasing spread of the disease among couples in the country, the Daily Nation reports. Additional initiatives include self-testing, national testing campaigns, and an added emphasis on couple, family, infant and child diagnosis, according to officials at the launch of the National Guidelines for HIV Testing and Counseling in the capital of Nairobi. James Gesami, assistant minister of Public Health and Sanitation, said that the "focus on people in marriages and relationships" will be included in the country's HIV testing and counseling programs as they are among the "areas of concern." The Nation reports that almost 50% of new HIV cases are recorded among married couples and that the new guidelines will attempt to reduce the trend. The Kenya AIDS Indicator Survey indicates that 45% of married people living with the virus have a partner who is HIV-negative -- meaning that about 350,000 couples in the country are discordant.
David Okello, country director for the World Health Organization, said that HIV/AIDS continues to challenge the country despite earlier indications that prevalence was declining. He added that testing should be a way to help people living with HIV/AIDS plan their lives. Okello said the country should "shift its focus from reproductive age groups to all groups to contain the pandemic." He added, "Things are not business as usual. Prevention efforts should be scaled up" (Cheboi, Daily Nation, 2/11).
The Nation reports that advocates and physicians have "sounded an alert" on the increasing number of HIV cases involving married couples, warning that treatment likely will be hindered as a result. Nicholas Muraguri, director of the National AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Diseases Program, said that the country's antiretroviral drug treatment program -- in which about 1.3 million people are enrolled -- would be challenged by the 55,000 to 100,000 new HIV cases being reported annually, primarily among married couples. In an effort to address the issue, Muraguri said the Ministry of Public Health launched a campaign that "aims at promoting fidelity in marriages and encouraging couples to know their HIV status."
According to the Nation, three out of five Kenyans living with HIV/AIDS are women. Muraguri said that low condom use among men ages 55 and older places them at an increased risk of the virus. He also said that HIV/AIDS cases are rising among people living in rural areas compared with those in urban areas. Muraguri added that negligence is contributing to the spread of the virus among married couples. He said, "Most couples and partners tend to relax and fail to use condoms after entering into a new sexual relationship. ... This ends up fueling the spread of the disease since a majority of them do not know the HIV status of their partners" (Mwaniki, Daily Nation, 2/10).