LETTER TO THE EDITOR

Government should stay on track on HIV-Aids fight amid Covid-19

By 2018 in Kenya, 89 per cent of people living with HIV knew their status

In Summary

• We’ve made great strides and today, HIV infection is no longer life-threatening thanks to antiretroviral medications.

• However, it remains a public health concern and therefore it’s important that the Health ministry and relevant stakeholders mainstream HIV care and treatment to Covid-19 response

Health CS Mutahi Kagwe and senior government officials after he confirmed Kenya's first cornovirus case on Friday, March 13, 2020.
Health CS Mutahi Kagwe and senior government officials after he confirmed Kenya's first cornovirus case on Friday, March 13, 2020.
Image: MARGARET WANJIRU
Health CS Mutahi Kagwe and senior government officials after he confirmed Kenya's first cornovirus case on Friday, March 13, 2020.
Health CS Mutahi Kagwe and senior government officials after he confirmed Kenya's first cornovirus case on Friday, March 13, 2020.
Image: MARGARET WANJIRU

Coronavirus continues to spread in Kenya and is already having an impact on HIV.

 The virus presents a significant threat to people living with HIV.

According to the National Aids Control Council, 1.6 million people in Kenya had HIV as of 2018.

Nairobi, being among the most hit counties with Covid-19 cases also happens to have high HIV prevalence at 6.1 per cent, being higher than the national prevalence of 4.8 per cent. The county is ranked first nationally with 190,993 people estimated to be living with HIV. The pandemic has brought about nationwide challenges in the fight against HIV-Aids, creating disruption on accessing information, commodities, and services.

Kenya is on track on the 90–90–90 goals which envision that, by the end of 2020, 90 per cent of people living with HIV will know their status, 90 per cent of people who know their HIV-positive status will access treatment and 90 per cent of those on treatment will have suppressed viral loads.  

By 2018 in Kenya, 89 per cent of people living with HIV knew their status, 68 per cent of them were on treatment according to UNAIDS. However, we risk losings the gains made and staying on track amid the fight against Covid-19.

Recently, the Ministry of Health indicated that they have noticed a significant drop in the number of people seeking medication at the health facilities. Just like any other health need, this shows people living with HIV might be avoiding health facilities, posing a challenge on adherence to medication, which is critical during this pandemic.

We’ve made great strides and today, HIV infection is no longer life-threatening thanks to antiretroviral medications. However, it remains a public health concern and therefore it’s important that the Health ministry and relevant stakeholders mainstream HIV care and treatment to Covid-19 response by providing factual information on HIV in relation to coronavirus, ensure PLWHIV have and maintain on-hand at least a 30-day supply and ideally a 90-day supply of antiretroviral drugs and other medications per World Health Organization recommendations.

Offer telephone or virtual visits for routine or non-urgent care and adherence counseling to replace face-to-face encounters.

Dollarman Fatinato

Nairobi