HIV Battle Targets Truck Drivers as Infections Soar. 19/4/11

Kenya Aids Strategic Plan 2009-2013 identified long distance truck drivers as one group facing the highest risk of acquiring and transmitting HIV.

AllAfrica

By George Murage
19 April 2011

Kenya is recording 100,000 new HIV infections every year according to statistics from the Ministry of Public Health.

The government and development partners are consequently working to put in place to reduce the rate of infection.

Head of disease prevention and control Dr Willis Akhwale said there are two new HIV infections for every one person who is on antiretroviral therapy.

"Currently, the cost of antiretroviral drugs is about Sh8 billion for about 450,000 patients," Akhwale said.

He said the Kenya Aids Strategic Plan 2009-2013 identified long distance truck drivers as one group facing the highest risk of acquiring and transmitting HIV.

The doctor said various studies have reported HIV prevalence ranging between 14-20 per cent among this group, which is more than double the prevalence among the general population.

"The long distance truck drivers play a central role in the spread of HIV along the transport corridors," he said.

Akhwale was speaking in Maai Mahiu, Naivasha during the launch of one of the Roadside Wellness Centres set up on the highways.

He said truckers had one of the most challenging jobs and some of them engage in unprotected sex with prostitutes.

The head of the National Aids and STI control programme Dr Nicholas Muraguri said truck drivers contribute to 30 per cent of HIV infections.

"We are committed to fighting HIV/ Aids and this centre will address the issue by targeting truck drivers and commercial sex workers," he said.

Japan deputy chief of mission Yoichiro Yamada said his country will continue supporting Kenya and the roadside centre was one of country's projects.

He said since 1990, Japan has given Sh880m in funding to NGOs, CBOs, schools and health centres to improve the lives of Kenyans.

Yoichiro said through JICA - Japan's International development arm - they will partner with Kenya to train customs officers and establish the 'one-stop border post' in the East African region.

He said the post will enable speedy and efficient custom clearance and enhance the flow of goods and services among East African countries.

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