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Kenyan Program Distributes No-Cost ITNs, Condoms, Water Filters to People Who Receive HIV Tests

October 1, 2008

A new HIV testing program in Kenya's Lurambi district is providing an insecticide-treated net to prevent malaria, no-cost condoms and a water filter to everyone who receives a test, DPA/Bangkok Post reports. The campaign -- which aims to administer HIV tests to 43,000 sexually active people ages 15 to 49 in the district -- is a joint project of Vestergaard Frandsen, the Kenyan Ministry of Health and nongovernmental organizations.

Peter Cleary -- communications director of Vestergaard Frandsen, which is providing the HIV tests and the no-cost items -- said the campaign has received an "overwhelming" response, with more than 10,000 people arriving for an HIV test on the first day of the program and nearly the same turnout on the second day. Some health officials, including Louis da Gama of Global Health Advocates, attributed the strong turnout to a high demand for the no-cost items, particularly the ITNs. According to DPA/Post, 52% of children and 37% of pregnant women in Kenya sleep under an ITN.

Of the 650 people tested in Eshisuru village during the first two days of the campaign, 40 tested positive for HIV, a rate slightly lower than Kenya's estimated national HIV prevalence. Eight of the 40 people who were found to be HIV-positive immediately began antiretroviral treatment, which the health ministry provided to the program in advance. The program also provides counseling for people who test positive for HIV, many of whom "come expecting to be negative because they don't feel sick and are still able to work," but who "are distraught when they find out" they are HIV-positive, Beatrice Awino, manager of the testing site in Eshisiru, said. In addition, the campaign aims to reduce HIV-associated stigma by holding the testing sites in central locations.

Vestergaard Frandsen plans to fund the first 43,000 HIV tests, but the success of the program could lead Kenya to expand the campaign, with an aim of reaching the national target of having 80% of all adults know their HIV status by 2010. According to DPA/Post, less than 20% of Kenyans know their HIV status, and an estimated 1.2 million HIV-positive Kenyans do not know their HIV status (Logan, DPA/Bangkok Post, 9/30).

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