World AIDS Day 2021: Body decries inadequate HIV/AIDS interventions in Kenyan pastoralist areas

HIV/AIDS remains a serious threat to livestock production, particularly among the pastoralists communities in East Africa, Daniel Erot, Programme Lead at the Pragmatic Social Action (PSA) said.

Speaking in Lodwar Town, Turkana County while marking the World AIDS Day, Mr Erot said the lifestyles of the pastoralists of moving from place to place in search of water and pasture for their livestock particularly in drought, in addition to the vastness of the areas covered has meant that they continue to be excluded from prevention strategies and are hardly reached with life-saving interventions.

“Our communities do not have the luxury of getting tested to know their HVI status, neither do those infected get ARVs. The affected families have to bear the brunt of loss and pain by themselves,” he said adding that is the reason as Pragmatic Social Action, “we are asking both the central and County Governments to device workable solutions to reach to the hard-to reach populations as pastoralists”.

The Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (KEMSA) currently transports ARVs from national warehouses in Nairobi to Lodwar, some 500 KM away; then healthcare workers from around the county must travel to Lodwar to pick them up monthly. The challenges of transportation in this county severely impact service delivery: ARVs are often delayed reaching health facilities.

Lauding the call by the Joint UN Programme on HIV and AIDS to ending the inequalities, Mr Erot said the greatest transformative measures to end ADIS must include addressing the needs of the pastoralist communities.

Underdeveloped road networks and unpredictable flash floods, insecurity, vast distances between health facilities that offer HIV care and treatment services and unreliable transportation options have been identified as bottlenecks in the battle against HIV in the County.

He said matters have been worse since the outbreak of the COVID-19 which has seen diversion of all energies, resources and personnel towards addressing COVID. “The few testing kits for HIV are no longer visible, access to ARVs for our people has become a nightmare, especially for the elderly people living with HIV and AIDS. Something should be done,” he said.

According to the national Aids control council (NACC) four in 100 people in Turkana are living with the HIV and AIDS.