At least 200 girls pregnant at an early age in Murang’a County have tested HIV positive, Chief Executive for Health Joseph Mbai has revealed.
He said data captured at the Murang’a Level Five Hospital shows that annually, approximately 4,000 girls are pregnant at an early age, and the numbers of those HIV positive could be higher.
While presiding over the launch of rapid HIV and Tuberculosis testing mechanism program, Mr Mbai said the ante-natal care records from 2013 to 2019 show increased infections.
The county has a population of 16,000 persons living with HIV, out of which at least 4,000 are teenagers of either sex.
KNOW THEIR STATUS
Mr Mbai said the county health department has started voluntary testing campaign to encourage the youth to know their status.
“This program will help us get an all-inclusive data that presents the most accurate situation on the ground,” he added.
He said teenagers that test positive are placed on antiretroviral (ARVs), get psychosocial support and treatment to prevent mother-to-child transmission.
“We also place them under the close monitoring by our community health workers who ensure they continue seeking ante-natal care as well as ensuring they take their ARVs daily,” he said.
Mr Mbai called on the stakeholders to explore introduction of sex education for minors.
“We have for a long time, buried our heads in the sand citing our religious and cultural beliefs. Yet we are confronted with the reality of minors engaging in unprotected sex,” he said.
He pointed out that most of the teenagers were born in the 90s when the HIV pandemic was at its peak and the ones who are positive fail to disclose their status to their partners.
“This is the biggest challenge we have. These young people won’t disclose their status and have more than one partner,” said Mbai.
He said the county shall embark on a programme to have the teen mums educated on how to take care of themselves and their unborn babies.
“We shall do a lot of sensitization to ensure they deliver in hospital to help curb the risk of disease transmission,” he added.
Murang’a Maendeleo ya Wanawake chairperson Lucy Nyambura termed the data as “scaring and challenging.”
She however, said “the data most captures how poverty in the society is dehumanised.”
Ms Nyambura said more than 90 per cent of the minor pregnancies affect the poor who are enticed either with monetary favours or their vulnerability taken advantage of.
She said alcoholism also contributes to the vice adding that in some instances, close family members sexually abuse the teenagers.
Murang’a Director of Health Services Dr Winnie Kanyi said: “We have to ensure that we demystify reproductive health awareness programs.”
She added that the society frowns upon those who seek to sensitise the young on reproductive health and “now we are paying for our uninformed and narrow mind-sets about these issues.”
Maragua MP Mary wa Maua said the issue is a wake-up call to ensure parents play their role in raising their daughters by addressing such ‘sensitive’ topics.