Health County Executive Jane Ajele has said that the county government is focused on the prevention of HIV transmission among the youth in order to safeguard Turkana’s future generation.
Speaking during the 33rd World Aids Day – marked every 1st December, CEC Ajele said that of the 42% of the newly infected with HIV are youth aged 15-24 years which she describes as unacceptable as most of the infected young girls/women get pregnant as well.
“We must stop this because it is our responsibility to provide a safe environment for our young girls to thrive and it called for a multisectoral approach to address the vulnerabilities these women,” she said.
In relation to this year’s national theme #EndTeenagePregnancy, she urged the youth particularly the women to practise abstinence not only to prevent being HIV infected but also pregnancies which can lead to health complications.
According to the National Aids Control Council, for every five women one is attending 1st antenatal care (ANC) is an adolescent girl aged 10-19 years and every week 277 women aged 15-24 year is newly infected with HIV. In Turkana County, the total number of new infections among the youth in 2020 were 244 which was an increase from 175 in 2018.
To address the teenage pregnancy cases in the county, the county government in partnership with other partners set up the Youth Friendly Centre at Lodwar County Referral Hospital. The centre is a safe space for the youth to get support for those who are expectant as well as medical services such as HIV testing and ANC.
In the event some of the expectant teenagers are HIV infected, the county government has rolled out HIV point of care testing technology (POCT) in five sub-counties in the prevention of mother to child transmission (PMTCT). This has reduced infant diagnosis from 20-30 days to less than 24 hours, thus enabling the health officers enrol infant in early treatment.
The County Health Executive also urged people to get tested as it was equally important to know one’s HIV status. “If you are found positive, you will be put on antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) and continue being a productive member of society.”
Other speakers included Health Chief Officer Capt. (Rdt) Augustine Lokwang’, Andrew Mutumwa (Assistant County Commission – Kerio), Prof Clifford Machogu (Turkana University College), Dr Bonventure Ameyo (County Director – Preventive and Promotive), Samuel Pulkol (County AIDS & STIs Coordinator), Evans Asembo (Deputy Chief of Party – USAid Imarisha Jamii) and Bernard Mwaura (National Aids Control Council).
Other partners represented included Kenya Red Cross – Turkana Branch, Diocese of Lodwar, Yunitok, Network of People Living with HIV AIDS in Kenya (NEPHAK), Apese Ere, World Vision, AIC Health Ministries and Kenya Highway Authority.