The Nation (Nairobi)

Kenya: Rethink Strategy On HIV/Aids

editorial

Just as the Government began waxing proud of the fact that the HIV/Aids infection cases were stabilising - in fact, declining - a new United Nations Report painted a grave picture of the real situation obtaining. Kenya ranks third on the list of countries with large numbers of Aids orphans.

To be precise, Kenya has 890,000 Aids orphans, following Nigeria and Ethiopia with a million and 990,000, respectively.

The implication is that all the efforts so far spent on trying to stem the spread have not hit the desired target. To be sure, the Government has declared Aids a national disaster and set up structures and organs to deal with it.

Several groups, particularly NGOs, have sprung up in the past 18 years expressly to campaign against the scourge, groups which at times made critics wryly comment that the Aids campaign had become a growth industry.

The point, therefore, is that the strategies used in the anti-Aids campaigns were either faulty or misdirected. Worse, it seems the tragedy provided fortune-seekers with ample an opportunity to make a kill while disguising themselves as combat champions.

For long, there was an erroneous understanding of Aids as a medical rather than a socio-economic and politico-cultural crisis. Thus, the campaign strategies did not take a multi-sectoral dimension.

What now transpires is that we have a disaster of enormous proportions on our hands which requires sober, practical and tactful action plans to redress. A large population of orphans is a colony of poverty. It is a group largely deprived of basic rights, including food, shelter, education and medical services.

Cumulatively, the impact of Aids on economic growth as it kills those in productive sectors, including labour, trade, agriculture and other professions, is now well documented.

So, if there was any moment of reckoning, it is now. We are all challenged to reflect on our individual and collective responses to this tragedy and start putting in place structures, not only to contain its spread, but also to assist those infected and affected by Aids.

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