Mar 28, 2011

Kenya Integrates HIV Care into its General Public Health Care System


In Kenya, the implementation of a new program, which integrates HIV treatment into general public healthcare, could prove a positive restructuring of Kenya’s healthcare system.

Most public hospitals in Kenya have “comprehensive care clinics” (CCC) which are distinct units dedicated solely to the treatment of HIV. Under the new program, these CCCs will no longer exist. HIV care will not be downplayed; instead the CCCs’ removal will help relieve the overburdened health care system which, at present, cannot support a sub-system dedicated only to HIV. Activists are pleased by the news, as the program will positively affect the issue of stigma. The new program is already resulting in increased drug adherence among patients who now feel more comfortable seeking treatment. Joshua Omoro, a patient, said: "I have come today to pick my [antiretroviral] medicine but nobody can know; people are just guessing what I might be suffering from just like I am also just guessing for other people," he said. "It puts you at ease...before when you went to a specific room, people just knew you had HIV." 

Further, removing a hierarchal ranking of disease makes those not living with HIV feel more represented in the health care system: "When donors came in with their money and set up these very efficient CCCs, they exposed the inefficiencies within the general health system," said James Kamau, coordinator of the Kenya Treatment Access Movement. "At one point, people in rural areas would wish they were HIV-positive so they could benefit from the better service at the CCC." 

Life for Mothers believes that the maternal mortality rate, more than any other factor, is the best indicator of how well a health care system functions. It is critical to integrate HIV/AIDS with maternal/reproductive health services; without this integration a health system cannot be considered truly comprehensive and/or holistic. We hope that Kenya’s newly integrated system will include the necessary repeat HIV testing of pregnant mothers and their children during general, routine check-ups. This would further decrease infection rates as well as mother-to-child HIV transmission, which accounts for at least 20% of new infections. Further, the normalization of HIV testing would also help mitigate stigma and discrimination.

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Did you know?

In Africa and South Asia, complications during pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death for women of childbearing age.

Source:United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), 2010

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