As Kenya races against time to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030, there is an urgent need to involve men by placing them at the centre of the HIV response. According to the World AIDS Day Report launched today during the national commemoration at Kibabii University, Bungoma County, men are paying with their lives for poor health-seeking behaviour and inability to adhere to treatment. Statistics show that despite the country having fewer men living with HIV than women, more AIDS-related deaths were recorded among men. Health CS Susan Nakhumicha, while weighing in on poor treatment outcomes for men, said that the trend we are currently experiencing is not good news. “Despite our progress, we remain alert that this battle is not over,” she said. She was speaking at the World AIDS Day national commemoration at Kibabii University.
Men are dying
In 2021, the country lost about 8,291 men aged 30 years and above to AIDS-related illnesses. This is attributed to poor health-seeking behaviour and low uptake of ART among men. “Men are dying because they don’t go for HIV testing. Those who go for testing do not adhere to treatment,” said Dr Ruth Laibon- Masha, CEO of the National Syndemic Diseases Control Council (NSDCC). According to Nelson Otwoma, National Coordinator, Network of People Living with HIV in Kenya, most of the AIDS-related deaths in 2021 occurred among men who are less likely than women to be diagnosed, start and stay on treatment and reach the undetectable viral load. “We call on communities to support men’s access to testing and retention to care,” he said. When a country loses men, the ripple effect can be devastating.
Losing men means an increase in hopelessness for families, more widows and children dropping out of school due to lack of school fees.” As men, let us come forward. Let us get tested so that we can eradicate this disease. Let us stop this issue where your wife gets pregnant, goes for testing, and you take her results as yours. This behaviour should stop.” a call from Abner Mogire, Chairman, NEPHAK Kenya.