The risk of HIV infection, adolescent pregnancies, and sexual and gender-based violence have persistently undermined the health, education, and economic empowerment of young girls, Health Principal Secretary Susan Mochache has said. The three challenges will now be the target of a campaign, dubbed the Triple Threat, meant to ensure teenagers and young women live healthy lives.
“We are encouraged by the progress made since we began to consolidate our efforts on these issues, but we will strive to bring everyone on board until we see a Kenya where our children thrive by leading healthy lives,” she said during a public sensitisation meeting in Mathare, Nairobi County on July 5, 2022.
According to the latest statistics, the PS said, “we have recorded 7% fewer cases of sexual and gender-based violence among adolescents and young women aged 10-19 over the last five months, as compared to the same period in 2021.”
Rapid scale-up of treatment
Mochache said the country had succeeded in bringing down the number of AIDS-related deaths by 68% from 58,446 in 2013 to 19,486 in 2021. The rapid scale-up of antiretroviral treatment, she said, increased by 83% from 656,369 in 2013 to 1,199,101 in 2021.
“Unfortunately, more than four decades since the first HIV case was documented, AIDS remains a major public health threat for adolescents and young people,” she said.
In 2021, on average, at least 98 new HIV infections occurred every week among adolescents aged 10-19 years, and that about 5,288 aids deaths occur among children and young people the PS added.
Mochache said women and girls bore the brunt of gender inequalities, sexual and gender-based violence, HIV, and teenage pregnancies.
“We must acknowledge that every teenage pregnancy is clear evidence of unprotected sex that carries other risks beyond pregnancies,” she said.
She added: “One in every five adolescent women aged 15-19 are already mothers or pregnant with their first child.”
In 2021, about 21% or 317,644 of all pregnancies were among adolescents aged 10-19 years.
“The painful truth is that 1 out of every three mothers attending an antenatal clinic is an adolescent girl aged 10-19. We also know that 1 in 3 of our adolescent and young girls under 18 years have ever experienced some form of violence including sexual and gender-based violence,” she said.
The PS said teenage pregnancy exposed young mothers and their children to major health risks, including the transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.