Close

INCREASED TRADE

New HIV infections double along SGR counties — report

Blamed on new transport corridors which have led to new migration and people mixing

In Summary

• Last year, 46,000 Kenyans were infected with the virus against a target of less than 25,000 new infections.

• All counties along SGR have seen infections rise by one to 49 per cent compared to 2013.

National Aids Control Council director Nduku Kilonzo
BONUS GAINS FROM SGR: National Aids Control Council director Nduku Kilonzo
Image: FILE

Kenya appears to receive more from the standard gauge railway than it bargained for. 

The National Aids Control Council yesterday said HIV is spreading faster in towns served by the 476-km railway line. 

The spike in select counties dealt a major blow to the momentum of new infections which have fallen nationally. 

NACC said compared to 2013, new infections rose by more than 50 per cent in all Coast counties.

They also rose by more than 50 per cent in the Lapsset corridor since 2013.

This corridor includes Lamu county where a seaport is being built, and Marsabit and Wajir, which are served by the brand new road that connects Kenya to Ethiopia.

The pattern mirrors the spread of HIV in the 1980s and 1990s along transport corridors, largely blamed on long-distance truck drivers. 

NACC executive director Nduku Kilonzo said last year, 46,000 Kenyans were infected with the virus.

"Our target is less than 25,000 new infections in a year," she said yesterday.

"The new transport corridors have led to new migration and people mixing.  When you see new roads in your area you should ask what it means," she added.

 
 
 

Nduku spoke in Nairobi during a meeting with religious leaders ahead of NACC's Maisha Conference next week.

All other counties along the SGR line and Moyale Road also saw infections rise by one to 49 per cent compared to 2013. 

"In Taveta, the heat map shows a red on the highway and roads, literally," she said. 

The study also showed devolution has slowed the war on HIV. 

In Busia, Kakamega, Bungoma and Vihiga, infections have risen by more than 50 per cent compared to 2013. 

This was blamed on fatter wallets and new money in the county headquarters, which increased border 'trade'. 

Nduku's figures came largely from the Kenya Aids Response Progress Report of 2018.

"Mobility has been accepted by UNAids and the International Labour Organisation as one of the biggest risk factors to infection with HIV," the International Transport Federation says.

In yesterday's meeting, religious leaders promised to lead the fight against the pandemic. 

Bishop John Warari, who heads the Kenya Christian Forum, regretted that the new gains made against HIV were being lost to devolution and development. 

"We see counties going into a dangerous trend where gains are being lost. We as the moral agents have the prophetic mandate to teach people about morals," he said. 

Islamic scholar Prof Mohamed Karama of Umma University opposed introduction of comprehensive sex education in primary schools. 

"We advocate for education that has moral values rather than knowledge for its sake," he said. 

(Edited by R.Wamochie)