Dr. Ruth Laibon-Masha
Chief Executive Officer, National AIDS Control Council

Today is yet another time to celebrate women across the world – Happy International Women’s Day!

International Women’s Day is a day to celebrate womanhood. It is a day to reflect on progress made towards gender parity, to call for change and to celebrate the strides made by women across the world. Through this year’s celebration, we get to acknowledge and appreciate the women world over, who have played exemplary leadership roles in the wake of COVID-19.

The last decade has seen a significant decline in HIV and AIDS prevalence among the general population in Kenya. Kenya stands at a prevalence of 4.5%, down from 5.9% five years ago. New infections are currently at 34,610 nationally, down from 77,648 five years ago. Women have benefited in terms of HIV testing, access to antiretroviral medication, as well as improved maternal and child health, through elimination of mother to child transmission. We however still have a long way to go in attaining our goal to end AIDS by 2030.

New infections especially among young women and girls remain unacceptably high. Social challenges that affect women’s access and rights to health and HIV services abound. We still need to promote women’s participation in decision making at all levels. It is incumbent on us, primarily health policy makers and practitioners, to work together in ensuring equal health opportunities and outcomes for women and girls.

I therefore celebrate women who continue to exert themselves to ensure healthcare in Kenya, and specifically the HIV Response, is where it is today. Women who remain committed to seeing that other women do not bear discrimination because they are living with HIV. Those that continue to care for their loved ones and others in community, infected or affected by HIV.  Those that continue to advocate for changes in policy and in practice. Those that provide the much needed enabling environment to facilitate our programmes. Those that provide the requisite leadership, direction, and technical backstopping to move us closer to attaining our HIV targets.

As we celebrate women today, the world’s attention needs to urgently focus on solutions to the complex nature of all inequalities women face in light of the HIV and AIDS epidemic. We must develop and implement policies that will protect the rights of women and grant them equal access to not just health but also education, job opportunities, leadership positions, and overall, active and meaningful participation in our society. Locally, we must explore opportunities to leverage on the experience and expertise of the HIV response towards COVID-19 management; providing equity in leadership, focused responsibility and stewardship of resources, as well as inclusive community action towards affordable health.  Women must be at the centre. It can be done.

Dr. Ruth Laibon-Masha, Chief Executive Officer, National AIDS Control Council | March 8, 2021


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