Calls for collaborative efforts in combating teenage pregnancies in Kirinyaga as World celebrates AIDS day

There were calls for collaborative efforts in combating teenage pregnancies in Kirinyaga county during the Worlds AIDS Day celebrations held in Kagio market on Friday.

During the event that was organized by the County Government, it was observed that in as much as the county is making positive strides in containing the spread of HIV, there is an increase in teenage pregnancies, whereby 14% of all antenatal visits in the county facilities are by girls between 10 and 19 years.

Studies show that pregnant teenagers are more likely to be infected with HIV prior, during or after pregnancy, due to high rates of risky sexual behavior.

Joy Wambui (not her real name) a mother of one narrated how life has been difficult for her after getting pregnant at a young age. The 14-year-old girl who is also HIV positive said that her parents deserted her together with her siblings forcing her to step in as the only parent. Having dropped out of school as well, the teenager confessed that fending for the whole family has been an uphill task and many a time she has had to depend on well-wishers for food and shelter.

“I have been forced to take care of my newborn child and my siblings as our mother ran away and we have not seen her for a long time. I was forced to stop going to school as I have to take care of my child and I do not have any money for school fees. Life has been very difficult for us.” Said the girl.

To her relief though, staff at the county department of health mobilized funds to offset her rent arrears and cater for some other necessities for the family as a way of commemorating the World AIDS Day.  

Joy said that she was grateful because she is able to access proper medical assistance from the public facilities and she is hopeful that things will be better at some point. She said that falling pregnant at an early age costs girls an opportunity to realize their goals in life.

The County Executive Committee Member for Health, George Karoki, stressed on the need to carry out targeted interventions that included comprehensive education that will address the particular demographic.

He noted that Kirinyaga County has been implementing a collaborative program that has led to reduction of new HIV infections as well as increased uptake of ARVs among those infected. He said that this year’s theme ‘Let the Communities Lead’ was a call to action to support and empower communities to take the lead in the fight against HIV.

The estimated number of people living with HIV in the Kirinyaga stands at 13,353, with an impressive 12,336 individuals receiving treatment across 75 health facilities in the county. Notably, there’s a downward trend in the overall infection rate, marking significant progress in the county’s efforts to combat the virus” said the CECM. He added that the county has also been keen on prevention of mother to child transmission with 470 infants born of HIV positive mothers graduating with negative status in the past two years.

He said that the results came about due to collaborative efforts by various stakeholders among them the Community Health Promoters who he said have been active in educating people on prevention, testing and management of HIV. He added that the Governor Anne Waiguru had given full support to the health department thus enabling it offer the required HIV interventions.

Nevertheless, Karoki noted that HIV was still a massive countrywide health issue that needed to be addressed. “Over 1.4 million people live with HIV Kenya and actively use ARVs. However, HIV/AIDS continues to claim lives with approximately 16,169 Kenyans succumbing to HIV and related complications every year. In Kirinyaga, the number is estimated at 168 deaths every year,” he said.

John Muriithi, a resident at Kagio said that he was born HIV positive and had been living with his status for 24 years. He urged everyone to get tested to know their statuses, “Being HIV positive has not hindered me from achieving my goals in lifesince I have managed it with medication and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. People need to accept their status as many people are HIV positive but due to stigma, are reluctant to get treatment.Said Muriithi, appealing to the public to be supportive of people living with HIV.

Kirinyaga West Deputy County Commissioner, John Mbugua, said that one of the main goals for celebrating the World AIDS Day was to create awareness on the dangers of HIV as well as educate the public on ways to prevent its spread. He noted that all members of the society had their role to play in the fight against virus, Time has come for the society to take the lead to help fight this epidemic.He said.

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