'We need to achieve the last mile on ending new HIV infections in the country after prolonged fight against the virus. The best way is by taking care of pregnant women'
Kenya's focus in stopping new HIV infections should be shifted to pregnant who skip ante-natal clinics, an official has said.
Data from the National AIDS & STI Control Programme (Nascop) shows that including pregnant women is key to ending new HIV infections.
Nascop programmes officer Maureen Inimah on Sunday said the country plans to prevent Mother to Child Transmission (MTCT) of HIV from the current 12.4 per cent of all infections to 8.5 per cent.
“We need to achieve the last mile on ending new HIV infections in the country after prolonged fight against the virus. The best way is by taking care of pregnant women,” Inimah said.
She was speaking to journalists during a Science Conference at Sai Rock in Mombasa.
Inimah said that in 2018, there were 1,807,406 births in Kenya with 84 per cent of the women tested for HIV and syphilis during their ante-natal clinic visits.
She said the number of women who returned to the clinics for fourth visit reduced to 48.7 per cent.
In 2017, Kenya recorded 1,751,610 births with 71.5 per cent of the mothers going for ante-natal clinics for the first time and 74.3 per of them tested for HIV and syphilis.
Only 32.6 per cent went back after the fourth visit.
“This shows that we missed opportunities to prevent infants from being born positive by positive mothers, and placing them on time on anti-retrial virus drugs,” Inimah said.
The data showed that in 2018 there were 5,286 HIV positive mothers who missed an opportunity of getting ARTs which increased MTCT by 12.4 per cent.
The data was higher than the previous year in 2017 where 3,131 HIV positive mothers missed the chance of getting ARTs which increased MTCT by 11.5 per cent.
“We need stakeholders, public officers policies and community to ensure mothers who are pregnant visit clinics for full visits until birth,” she said.
Kenya currently has 7,978 new HIV infections among children with Homa Bay county having the highest number at 700 followed by Nairobi City county at 660.
Inimah blamed the figures on failure to adhere to ante-natal clinic procedures.
Siaya county has 620, Kisumu 616, Kakamega 437 and Migori 432 accounting. The six counties alone account for over 40 per cent of the infections.
Migori Governor Okoth Obado, in a speech read by his Energy executive Rebecca Maroa during the World Aids Day said all partners should come together to end new infections among children.
“The biggest impediment to ending new infections is mother to child transmission control, we need more pregnant women to visit clinics,” Obado said.
He said Migori has launched a policy in tackling MCTC by including traditional child attendants to refer women to clinics when giving birth to encourage their placement on ART.