The Star (Nairobi)

Kenya: Murugi Defends HIV/Aids Separate Programmes

Special Programmes minister Esther Murugi has opposed integration of HIV treatment into the general healthcare operations. Murugi yesterday said HIV remains a major health problem in Kenya which should be treated separately. "We are in discussions whether HIV should be considered as other diseases. We are now having contradictory information where we are being told cancer is now the disaster," she said yesterday at a meeting organised by the Unaids to discuss Kenya's new strategic plan for HIV.

Health ministers Prof Anyang Nyong'o and Beth Mugo support integration of HIV into the normal health services. Currently, people with HIV are served separately through programmes managed by bodies like the National Aids and STIs Control Programme (Nascop). Health workers offering HIV services have better terms than their colleagues.

Special Programmes controls HIV programmes at the policy level through the National Aids Control Council. Murugi further said the current funding by the government was inadequate. "Government should consider higher budgeting for HIV/ Aids. We feel that we need better response now," she said.

Several studies have suggested that integrating HIV care into other health activities offers better use of resources and staff to provide both HIV and non-HIV services. The plans have caused jittery with some players feeling HIV is being sidelined in favour of cancer. Ministry of Special Programmes complains its plans to create a local HIV Trust Fund to counter dwindling donor resources is being frustrated by the health ministries.

The Sh10 billion funds was proposed by a task force created by ministries of Special Programmes, Public Health, Medical Services, Nascop, National Hospital Insurance Fund and University of Nairobi health economists. Head of NACC Prof Alloys Orago said efforts to control HIV must not relent. "At least 29 per cent of all deaths in Kenya are still HIV-related," he said yesterday. Prof Orago said the new five-year strategic plan will start next year.

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