Friday, December 3, 2021

The theme for 2021’s World AIDS Day was ‘End inequalities. End AIDS. End pandemics’. The day that is marked internationally on December 1, highlights the urgency in eliminating the inequalities that drive pandemics around the world. The Global AIDS Strategy (2021-2026) adopted at the 2021 UN High-Level Meeting on AIDS has outlined ending inequalities as key to fighting AIDS. This fight is integral because inequalities have fueled AIDS and other pandemics; these inequalities have been known to inhibit proven solutions to AIDS prevention and treatment.’

Countries across the globe have committed to reduce inequalities within and without their borders in line with the Sustainable Development Goals. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is key to upscaling the AIDS response by utilizing a multisectoral, rights-based and people-centered approach to addressing health and well-being. AIDS response is interlinked with the progress made towards the attainment of the different SDGs; the SDG platform is vital in fast-tracking the continued fight against AIDS.                               

Speaking on behalf of the Vice-Chancellor, University of Nairobi, Prof. Stephen G. Kiama, at UoN World Aids Day forum, the Associate Dean, Faculty of Health Sciences, Prof. Evelyn Wagaiyu highlighted the university’s contributions towards the eradications of pandemics.

“The University of Nairobi is working with a consortium of African universities and research institutions under the Sisulu Foundation for African and Pandemic Disease Response to accelerate Africa’s response to diseases and pandemics; the University is represented by KAVI Institute for Clinical Research.”

Prof. Wagaiyu explained that the Sisulu Foundation for African and Pandemic Disease Response will provide a platform for training, conducting research and development in pandemics. African scientists will work together to address Africa’s health challenges.                                                    

The Associate Vice-Chancellor, Academic Affairs, Prof. Julius Ogeng’o, was disheartened by the fact that HIV/AIDS was negatively impacting the family unit; even leading to the disruption of studies in students affected by the scourge.

“Students may fail to complete their programmes because of HIV/AIDS. This disruption and this distortion is caused by the effects of HIV/AIDS at several levels. The first level is on parents, guardians and sponsors; the students could lose their guardians to HIV/AIDS making them orphaned thus losing financial support.”

On her part the Associate Vice-Chancellor, Research, Innovation and Enterprise, Prof. Margaret Hutchinson research laid out the role of research in providing information towards the control of HIV/AIDS.

“Research is critical in terms of giving us data and tracking what is happening with the HIV/AIDS in our communities; it taps into the various demographics of populations. Whether it is across gender lines, people living with disabilities, social economic classes or even households.”

While the Chief Operating Officer, Mr. Brian Ouma, noted that sexual violence was a risk factor in the transmission of HIV/AIDS to young women.

“Our focus ties in carefully with the need to end teenage pregnancies that impact the health of adolescents and young women. Teenage pregnancies are a positive indicator on the incidences of sexual violence, a risk factor for HIV acquisition.”

University Health Service’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Lucy Muhia, raised the alarm on the health crisis that is HIV/AIDS.

“HIV/AIDS remains a disease of Public Health importance. The burden is heavier among the youth especially those aged between 15-24 years.”

However, Dr. Muhia noted that the University of Nairobi had made significant contributions in the fight against HIV in terms of sensitization, capacity building and research. The University remains diligent in HIV care and management.

The Department of Internal Medicine’s Dr. Loice Ombajo shared her experiences as a physician and infectious disease doctor in the COVID-19 era.

 “The mortality rate in HIV patients continues to remain low despite them getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Patients with a low CD4 count are always administered with a booster dose.”

Dr. Ombajo highly recommended the COVID-19 vaccination to people living with HIV.

“5-10% of HIV positive develop broadly neutralizing serum antibodies but only after 2-3 years. This has not been reproduced with vaccines. Emprirical vaccine approaches are currently in efficacy testing.” Reported Prof. Omu Anzala, a Professor of Virology and Immunology.

This is the 23rd year that Kenya is joining the world in celebrating World Aids Day and remembrance of 2 million Kenyans that lost their lives to HIV/AIDS, the University of Nairobi remains committed to upholding its role in sensitizing the public on HIV/AIDS and continuing the good fight  to eradicate HIV/AIDS, COVID-19 and other pandemics.