NEW YORK | NAIROBI - Africa appears to be registering lower AIDS infection rates around the continent but with some exceptions. A new pediatric study has found that 19,000 children in Homa Bay county, Kenya, are infected with HIV.
While HIV is rarely a page one story these days, the virus is particularly rampant in Kenya where one in every four people in the county of Homa Bay, bordering Lake Victoria, lives with HIV. The area contributes the highest number of new infections in the country, recording 15,000 new HIV infections in 2013 alone, according to the Kenya HIV Prevention Revolution Road Map 2014.
“The rate at which HIV is spreading in this county is worrying and the high infection rate among children is a big threat for the country’s future generation,” said Eliud Mwangi, national director of the Washington DC-based Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.
Local governor Cyprian Awiti called for a special fund for fighting the virus. The current 4 million shillings available in the current fiscal year, he said, is inadequate for the fight against the disease.
According to several health studies, local women traders who sell fish are the largest group of victims of HIV infection. They become sick when they’re forced to have unprotected sex in order to obtain a regular supply of fish to vend.
“I used to wonder why some of us got more supply from the fishermen compared to others who got little supply of fish,” Rhoda Atieno told the Kenyan Star in an interview. “Later I came to realize that there is something locally known as ‘jaboya’ that the fishermen and fishmongers were involved in.”
This year, an international charity from Turkey came to the aid of the trading women by donating ten fishing boats to ten women’s groups so that they can catch their own fish and break their dependence on “fish for sex”.
The country government has also bought boats for some of the women’s groups. But Esther Soti, head of a health NGO, says more needs to be done to stop Jaboya.
“Fishermen and women need health clinics where they can get medication. They need access to ARV drugs.”
Kenya has the fourth-largest HIV epidemic in the world with 1.6 million people living with HIV in 2013. [International Press Syndicate – 2 February 2016]
Photo: VIRED International