According to a recently released report, there is a one out of five chance of a HIV-positive person on treatment in Homa Bay County transmitting the virus to their partner.
The national HIV survey revealed that with 84 per cent viral load suppression (VLS) prevalence among HIV-positive patients on treatment and adhering to the drug regimen in the county, chances of transmission to partners were reduced. VLS refers to a person having a low viral load.
The 2018 Kenya Population-based HIV Impact Assessment preliminary report also showed that nationally, VLS among HIV-positive adults stands at 71.6 per cent.
Other counties with the high VLS include Machakos and Kisumu at (84 per cent), Busia (81 per cent) and Siaya (79 per cent).
Those with the lowest VLS include Nandi (52 per cent), Meru (50 per cent), Narok (49 per cent), Kericho (45 per cent) and Turkana (40 per cent).
“Counties with the highest VLS are more likely to record new HIV infections as compared to counties with the lowest VLS,” Dr Catherine Ngungi, who heads the National AIDS and STI Control Programme (Nascop).
This, according to Dr Ngungi, was due to the fact that people are living longer because they are adhering to their medication and taking good care of themselves.
When a person living with HIV starts on an antiretroviral treatment (ART) regimen and strictly adheres to it, their viral load drops to an undetectable level in six months or less.
Dr Ngungi told the Nation that Homa Bay County is doing very well and therefore likely to achieve the 90:90:90 goal (90 per cent of people living with HIV know their status, 90 per cent of those who know they are infected are receiving ART, and 90 per cent of those people on treatment have sustainable suppression of their virus by 2020).
“The prevalence is going down — 80 per cent are knowledgeable about their HIV status and HIV care is reaching almost 86 per cent of the population. This is one of the counties that has done tremendously well,” she said.
The report revealed that HIV prevalence in Homa Bay had gone down from 26 per cent in 2016 to 19.9 per cent in 2018. Other counties with a high prevalence rate included Kisumu (17.5 per cent), Siaya (15.3 per cent), Migori (13 per cent) and Busia (9.9 per cent). Lowest prevalence — less than 2 per cent — was recorded in Samburu, Tana River, Garissa, Wajir, Mandera, Marsabit, Kiambu, West Pokot, and Baringo.
County Health executive Richard Muga said a 100 per cent condom availability in bars, learning institutions and public offices, as well as normalising condom use for protection had helped. He added the county had managed to achieve higher HIV suppression through increased awareness.
“We have, together with partners, invested in initiatives that integrate support programmes in the HIV response. These include peer educators. Antiretroviral therapy adherence counselling is conducted by trained personnel and treatment is given only when the client confirms that he or she is ready to adhere to the regimen,” said Prof Muga.
With the said partners, the county has expanded access to ART to the dispensary level, and ensured all pregnant and lactating women are covered.
The report also indicated that the country is close to achieving the 90:90:90 goal. So far, 79.4 per cent of HIV-positive Kenyans know their status, 95.7 per cent of those who know their status are on treatment, and 88.4 per cent of those on medication have suppressed viral loads.