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September 25, 2018

Most HIV+ people in Mt Kenya, Nyanza have undetectable viral load

Left, Prof Sylvia Ojoo, country director for the University of Maryland, Kenya Programme with Dr Irene Mukui, the deputy head of the National Aids and STIs Control Programme.
Left, Prof Sylvia Ojoo, country director for the University of Maryland, Kenya Programme with Dr Irene Mukui, the deputy head of the National Aids and STIs Control Programme.

The majority of people taking ARVs in Nyanza and Mt Kenya regions have achieved viral suppression and cannot infect others. 

The latest data show that in nine counties 90 per cent of those on drugs have successfully suppressed the virus. When HIV-positive people reach suppression level, the virus becomes undetectable and they cannot transmit it sexually to their partners. However, they must continue taking drugs and use protection to maintain the suppression. 

“People living with HIV can now live long and productive lives,” Dr Irene Mukui said yesterday. She is the deputy head of the National Aids and STIs Control Programme. 

The Nascop data shows Kisumu and Homa Bay counties have the best suppression levels at 91 per cent. Murang’a and Kirinyaga both follow at 90.8, trailed by Nyeri and Migori at 90.7 per cent. Siaya follows with 90.6, Kisii 90.3 and Mombasa 90 per cent. The rest of the country is below 90 per cent, with Vihiga and Kiambu hovering at 89.9 and Nairobi 87.1 per cent. 

Viral suppression does not mean a person is cured. HIV remains in the body and can be transmitted, even though the chances are extremely slim. Mukui said most new infections countrywide are among young people, whose suppression levels are extremely low. 

“The suppression levels for 15-19 year-olds is around 60 per cent, compared to 80 for the general population,” she said yesterday in Nairobi at the HIV Prevention, Care and Treatment Scientific Conference organised by Nascop.

The global target by 2020 is for 90 per cent of people to be tested, 90 per cent of those positive put on treatment, and 90 per cent be virally suppressed. Heath ministry CAS Rashid Aman said Kenya can meet the UNAIDS target. 

“Currently, 75 per cent of people living with HIV in Kenya have been tested and 95 per cent of them are on treatment,” he said. 

Nascop data showed people living with HIV in northeastern have the lowest suppression.

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