For every three Kenyans who test positive for HIV, one new case is diagnosed through their referral, a study has shown.
In 2013, there were 1.6 million HIV positive Kenyans, meaning that nearly 530,000 citizens are unaware that they have the virus.
The Assisted Partner Notification Services study enrolled 1,119 people who had just tested positive for HIV and were asked to give names and contact information of their sexual partners in the past three years.
Women at risk of intimate partner violence were not included in the study. Dr Peter Cherutich from the Ministry of Health was the lead researcher.
“We recruited HIV+ people and asked them to give us names and contact information of their sexual partners, including casual ones. We then notified these partners through phone calls within two days and in some instances visited them,” said Dr Cherutich.
Health care workers introduced themselves as Ministry of Health employees based at the Kenyatta National Hospital.
If the partners asked how their contact information was obtained, they were told that it was from a National Aids and STI Control Programme database.
About 671 mentioned only one sexual partner while 448 said they had more than one.
In total, the 1,119 people gave names of 1,872 sexual partners. HIV prevalence among these partners was 35 per cent, which is seven times the national average.
Currently, individuals testing positive for HIV are encouraged to disclose their status to their partners, with the hope that the disclosure would encourage the informed partner to go for testing.
Dr Cherutich said using the method enhanced “HIV case-finding”, reduced new infections and enrolled people on timely treatment.
The study was conducted between the end of 2013 and August 2015 in 18 VCT centres in central and western Kenya.
Dr Cherutich said it had the potential to improve HIV control in Kenya “since individuals are less likely to suspect infection and seek testing”.
He said the intervention was acceptable and did not lead to any harm among the people who identified their sexual partners.
“Participants are closely monitored for any outcomes, particularly intimate partner violence.
“If a woman said she had experienced violence in the past month, she was not recruited. Those who were included were contacted every 10, 20, 30 days to check on their safety,” he said.