This year, 1,473 young people aged 10 to 19 years have died from untreated HIV, which progressed to Aids
- Children are already having sex and exposing themselves to HIV and there was no need to ignore that – Ruth Masha.
- National Council for Population and Development director in Kenya, Dr Mohamed Sheikh said on average, half of young people start engaging in unprotected sex by age 17.
Although boys as young as 10 years are having sex, without protection, the majority do not seek HIV tests.
The National Aids Control Council says only three in ten sexually active boys aged 10-19 years are getting HIV tests.
Health workers need the consent of parents or guardians before they test minors for HIV, according to Kenyan law.
Nacc said tests for girls are much higher since all those who get pregnant get tested for the virus.
“Only 34 percent (406,190) of the males were tested for HIV out of the total tests 1,188,093 HIV conducted among adolescents aged 10-19 years,” said Nacc director Dr Ruth Masha.
The figures, for January 2020 to September 2021, are curated from the Kenya Health Information System, which aggregates data from all public health facilities.
Dr Masha released the data early this week as part of pregnancy statistics in Kenya.
“The debate of whether to educate children on their sexual health has to be real,” she said.
The data showed that among adolescents aged 10 to 19 years – both boys and girls – at least 5,294 have tested positive for HIV this year.
Further, 11,229 teens and young people aged 15 to 25 years have contracted HIV this year.
Dr Masha said although the rate of new infections has declined since 2015, the decline is not fast enough.
“There is progress in reduction of new HIV infections but not fast enough to achieve the 2030 goal of ending Aids,” she said on Monday in Nairobi while presenting the estimates ahead of World Aids Day next month.
Dr Masha used the figures to drum support for “age-appropriate sex education”.
She said children are already having sex and exposing themselves to HIV and there was no need to ignore that.
“Age-appropriate sex education means we do not lie to them. We only need to give them appropriate information on sex for their age,” she said.
She also noted this year, 1,473 young people aged 10 to 19 years have died from Aids-related infections this year.
In total, at least 1.5 million Kenyans are living with HIV. The Nacc director said the country needs at least Sh25.4 billion every year for commodities, mostly ARV drugs.
“We therefore cannot sustain the response if new HIV infections continue unchecked,” she said.
The high number of new infections correlated with high teenage pregnancy, driven by rampant unprotected sex among young people.
National Council for Population and Development director Dr Mohamed Sheikh said on average, half of the young people start engaging in unprotected sex by age 17.
“Adolescents aged 15-19 years account for an estimated 14 percent of all births in Kenya and 63 percent of these births are unintended while 35 percent also end up in abortions,” he said during the meeting.