- Kenya’s PMTC programme made the highest savings in 2011 when about 12,000 new infections were averted
- Half of all infants infected with HIV are likely to die before their second birthday if they do not receive treatment
Kenya has prevented the spread of HIV to about 121,591 babies in the last 20 years, a new analysis has said.
The analysis by the National Syndemic Diseases Control Council says the prevention occurred both at birth and during breastfeeding.
It says this has saved the country Sh129.2 billion in treatment and care expenses.
In Kenya, HIV-infected pregnant women should receive prevention of mother-to-child transmission services from the first antenatal care visit up until 18 months after delivery or later.
“Investments in HIV prevention are cost effective,” Dr Mutinda Mutuku, a health economist and health financing specialist at the council, told journalists.
“Verticle (mother-to-child) infections have been going down, and currently stand at 8.6 per cent, which means Kenya is yet to meet the five per cent target."
He said mothers, who interrupt treatment or do not taking ARV drugs during pregnancy and breastfeeding are the biggest contributors to babies getting infected.
Kenya’s PMTC programme made the highest savings in 2011 when about 12,000 new infections were averted.
Without any intervention, between 15 per cent and 45 per cent of babies born to HIV-positive mothers are likely to become infected.
Half of all infants infected with HIV are likely to die before their second birthday if they do not receive treatment.
However, the risk of infection reduces to less than one per cent if infected parents who take ARV drugs as prescribed throughout pregnancy and childbirth, have a suppressed viral load and give HIV preventive medicine to babies after birth.
Not all mothers adhere to these guidelines.
According to the NSDCC, in 2013, 14 out of every 100 mothers living with HIV passed on the virus to their babies.
This reduced to eight mothers last year, but did not meet the goal which was less that five out of every 100.
“Only Siaya county attained mother to child transmission rate of less than five per cent in 2022, recording 4.3 per cent,” County Programme officer Douglas Bosire said.
“Counties of Mandera, Wajir, Samburu and Narok had MTCT rates of above 20 per cent in the same year.”
Narok county has 21.1 per cent MTCT rate, Samburu 25.7 per cent, Wajir 29.6 per cent and Mandera 38.8 per cent.
Bosire, who also spoke to journalists in Machakos said 21 counties had increased MTCT rate between 2021 and 2022.
They include Mombasa, Lamu, Taita Taveta, Wajir, Mandera, Kitui, Machakos, Nyeri, Murang’a, Samburu, Trans Nzoia, Uasin Gishu, Elgeyo Marakwet, Nandi, Baringo, Narok, Kericho, Vihiga, Busia, Kisii, Nyamira and Nairobi.
Kirinyaga stagnated at above five per cent, while the remaining counties reduced their infection rates but still remained above five per cent.
Many of the transmissions, also called vertical transmission so as not to stigmatise mothers, happened disproportionately in young mothers below 24 years.
Bosire said the government is running a campaign to end new HIV infections in adolescents, teenage pregnancies and sexual and gender-based violence, otherwise called the Triple Threat.