HIV Testing To Be Done On 80 Percent of Kenyans By 2013

HIV testing hopes to be carried out on 80 percent of Kenya’s 40 million-strong population by 2013, an HIV expert said in the country on Friday.

Peter Cherutich is the Deputy Director and Head of HIV Prevention at the National Aids and STIs Control Program (NASCOP).

"As a country, we want everyone, be it children, old men or pregnant women to know their HIV status," Cherutich told an HIV forum in Nairobi, Xinhua reports.

He added that Kenya will also strengthen HIV patient care, so that once a patient’s status is known, they can then access anti-retroviral drugs to reduce chances of transmission.

About 60 percent of Kenyans currently know their HIV status, according to Cherutich, reports Xinhua.

“Various strategies have been put in place to encourage all adults to know their HIV status but about 40 percent of people in this country have never undergone a HIV test," he said.

Thos who are untested, he added, have impeded the government's plans to control new HIV infections, which remain high.

Cherutich noted that despite the many people who don’t know their status, Kenya is ahead of other countries in the East African region for the number of people who know their HIV status, Xinhua reports.

NASCOP estimates that about 100,000 people are infected with HIV in Kenya every year. The country's HIV prevalence stands at seven percent. "HIV is a unique disease. It can stay in one's body for over ten years without detection thus leading to high rates of transmission,” Cherutich said. “Such a person, who is asymptomatic, will believe that he is healthy and has high chances of infecting other people,” he said, reports Xinhua. “Thus,” he added, “it is only through testing that we can eliminate such cases.” He said that, as an organization leading the fight against HIV/AIDS, they are advocating that every Kenyan who visits a medical facility be requested to take a HIV test. "This radical measure will not only boost the response towards HIV but enable universal access to HIV testing in primary health care," he said, Xinhua reports. Several projects that include HIV testing at the antenatal clinics and Voluntary Counselling and Testing Centres are already underway to ensure the 80 percent target is reached.
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