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UN envoy on AIDS in Africa sees progress in Kenya

UN envoy on AIDS in Africa sees progress in Kenya but urges action for orphans

Kenya has achieved notable progress in slowing the HIV/AIDS pandemic but attention must be paid to its devastating effects, including its legacy of orphaned children, the United Nations envoy spearheading the fight against the disease in Africa has said in Nairobi.

While hailing a drop in prevalence rates from 14 per cent in 1999 to 6 per cent according to the latest surveys, Stephen Lewis told reporters on Saturday in the Kenyan capital that “the human consequences of the pandemic continue to be catastrophic.”

He called particular attention to the plight of children whose parents have succumbed to AIDS, citing the burden on family structures, especially on “grandmothers with sole responsibility for the orphans and no resources to speak of” and warned that “the longer the orphan situation continues the more likely it will be a larger problem in the future.”

The Special Envoy also made a strong call for donor support for the UN World Food Programme (WFP), pointing out that it is “hard to take anti-viral drugs on an empty stomach.”

During his visit, he visited a post-rape trauma centre in the Thika District Hospital, near Nairobi, commending it as a positive model that should be emulated in other parts of the country.

In the month of April, Thika District Hospital treated 46 rape cases, nearly half of which – 22 – were children. Mr. Lewis said he was deeply disturbed by the high levels of reported rape cases, noting that “sexual violence is a critical element in fuelling the pandemic.”

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