“Know your status”
On the 1st of December 2018, under this year’s theme, “know your status”, the World celebrates the 30th edition of the World AIDS Day. This day is purposed to create unity, support, and awareness, to sensitize and debunk myths and misconceptions that are related to HIV/AIDS. The two main objectives for 2018 will be, 1, to urge people to know their HIV infection status through testing, and to access HIV prevention, treatment and care service, and, 2, to urge policy makers to promote a “health for all” agenda for HIV and related health services such as tuberculosis (TB), hepatitis and non-communicable diseases.
The recently released Kenya HIV Estimates Report 2018 by the National AIDS Control Council (NACC) show that about 1.2 million Kenyans live with HIV/AIDS, which ranks us 3rd behind South Africa and Nigeria in national prevalence. About 75% of new HIV infections within and outside sub-Saharan Africa are attributed majorly to the key population, among other minority groups including commercial sex workers and prisoners. Under the key population, the general LGBTQ community, men who have sex with men (MSM), people who inject drugs and by extension, their sexual partners, bear majority of the statistics of new infections. Globally, they face much higher risks of HIV/AIDS than the general population. Underreporting is, however, common within key populations due to widespread stigma. This makes it difficult to track the statistics of prevalence and improvement. Unfortunately, only about 8% of them have access to HIV testing, which works against objective (1) for World AIDS Day 2018 besides contributing to the statistics that 1 out of 4 people with HIV who do not know that they are infected. This is because of extensive discrimination at the health facilities, which denies the key populations their constitutional rights.
The promotion for a “health for all” agenda for HIV and related health services continues to experience struggles, despite the several ratified international documents in addition to the constitutional pledge against discrimination based on gender identities. A number of people within the LGBTQ community report having being turned away from access to services because of their different sexual orientations and preferences. In essence, the fight against HIV/AIDS should focus more on the people who are at the highest risks. Hillary Clinton suggested that in order to beat HIV/AIDS, the conversations that are considered as ‘sensitive’ should be evaluated and acted upon promptly in order not to drive people to the shadows (AIDS 2012).
In order to scale up the fight against HIV/AIDS, groups at higher risks should also be catered for. Policies and guidelines should be put in place in order to promote article 43 of the Constitution of Kenya, 2010, and to provide essential services such as HTS, access to services and to provide linkages, as such, The World AIDS Day would make meaning to such minority groups and key populations.