First Lady Margaret Kenyatta has called for stronger collaboration among stakeholders so as to achieve the ambitious national target of an AIDS free generation by the year 2030.
The First Lady said there is need for partners in the fight against the scourge to collaborate more and redouble their efforts so as to defeat the virus.
“Strengthening our health systems and increasing access is essential to our progress so that many more mothers can benefit from free maternal services.
“In addition adolescents can get the information they need to protect themselves. This must be central to everything we do in our journey towards an AIDS free country,” the First Lady said.
The First Lady spoke today at Gusii Stadium in Kisii County during the commemoration of this year’s World Aids Day, whose national theme is “Towards UHC: Communities united for a HIV free Generation.”
The World Aids Day is marked every December 1st to create awareness about the status of the pandemic and encourage progress in HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care.
The First Lady acknowledged the role played by the civil society and faith based organizations in complementing government effort to provide quality healthcare and reassured them of her commitment in leading the fight against the pandemic.
Noting that HIV remains a pressing issue, the First Lady commended community workers for their tireless efforts in combating the disease saying efforts to eliminate the virus is central to government’s drive towards Universal Health Coverage.
She commended mentor mothers for their role at the community level saying they are instrumental in reducing preventable maternal deaths by ensuring that mothers deliver safely.
She however said despite the progress made in tackling HIV/AIDS, many people continue to face challenges in accessing healthcare services, which are key to eliminating the disease.
The First Lady expressed her regrets that many expectant mothers continue to miss their pre-natal visits and even fail to have skilled deliveries thereby exposing them to infection.
She said despite the progress made in reducing mother-to-child transmission of HIV, the country is faced with new challenges of new HIV infections among adolescents and young women.
“In areas where there is no counseling and testing this has meant that expectant mothers who miss their pre-natal visits, do not have safe deliveries putting their babies at risk. Lack of access to antenatal care has also meant that HIV positive mothers who are not on HIV treatment are not protected,” said the First Lady.
While acknowledging community workers as key to supplementing government efforts in dealing with HIV/AIDS, the First Lady said progress made in the reduction transmission of HIV has been made possible by the investments in resources and access to treatment.
First Lady Margaret Kenyatta lauded the County Government of Kisii for allocating more resources to the improvement of healthcare services to mothers and children citing the establishment of a specialised Mother and Child Unit at the Kisii Teaching and Referral Hospital as a demonstration of this commitment.
Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki who also spoke during the event commended the First Lady for her Beyond Zero initiative which she said has had a major impact on reducing mother to child HIV infection and called on stakeholders to capitalize on the gains made to completely eliminate mother-to-child HIV transmission of the virus.
“Your efforts through the Beyond Zero initiative has had a major impact in service delivery for mothers and infants in the country. We are now able to deliver HIV negative babies to HIV positive mothers,” the Health CS said.
Kisii Governor James Ongwae said the county administration allocates about 50% of its resources to the health sector a move which has greatly helped in reducing HIV/AIDS transmission.
Governor Ongwae noted that in 2013, the HIV prevalence index in the county was at 8% and has declined ove the years to the current to 4.4 % with deaths related to HIV coming down to 628 from 1200 annually.
The Kisii Governor said his county has increased the number of health facilities offering comprehensive HIV services from 112 to 143 over the years and increased the number of HIV caregivers from 10,000 to 31,000.
During the event, First Lady Margaret Kenyatta also launched the Kisii County Elimination of Mother-to-Child Transmission (eMTCT) of HIV plan and laid the foundation stone for a new building of 200 bed capacity Mother and Child Unit.
Other speakers during the event included MP’s Sam Ongeri, Richard Tong’i, Sabina Chege who is the Chairperson of the Health Committee in the National Assembly and US ambassador to Kenya Kyle McCarter among others.