HIV downgrade set to change face of disease

Sunday February 19 2012


A major milestone in the history of HIV is underway and may forever change the face of the disease.

A decision by donors and the government to downgrade its emergency status indicates that HIV/Aids is no longer the ‘favourite’ disease.

“HIV is just like any other disease. We now have the knowledge about it, we have the drugs, and nearly everybody knows about it so we are going to treat it alongside the other diseases,” National Aids and STD Control Programme official Martin Sirengo said last March.

This statement was the first major indication that HIV would no longer be given first priority.

This statement was, however, harshly criticised by more than 24 civil society groups, which demanded a retraction from the government. The demand has not been honoured.

“The move to downgrade HIV is not accidental; it has been well-thought out especially by the donors, and any efforts to fight it may not go far. Prudent civil groups must plan their next move,” says Ms Evelyn Kibuchi of the Kenya Aids NGOs Consortium.

The emergency status was declared by retired President Moi in 1998, but the government and donors have adopted a new policy called ‘integration’.

“Integration is the way to go because it makes logistical and economic sense,” Public Health and Sanitation Minister Beth Mugo told a regional meeting in Mombasa in November last year.