Kenyan researchers confront hurdles in fight against HIV/AIDS

Eldoret- Kenya (PANA) -- International scientists working in the field of HIV/AID S research in western Kenya have stumbled on a new challenge involving the testi n g and effectively curbing the spread of the disease amongst discordant couples.
The researchers at the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital, working with their co unterparts from the Indiana University School of Medicine, have discovered that a t least 40 per cent of married couples tested for HIV/AIDS were discordant coupl e s.
According to Dr.
Samson Ndege, the Associate Programme Manager for AMPATH, a joi nt HIV/AIDS testing and care project funded by international business organisati o ns, including banks and drug firms, the emergence of discordant couples offers n e w challenges in dealing with the public health issues surrounding the HIV/AIDS c a mpaign.
In Western Kenya, where the researchers have managed to test some 56,603 for the disease after thorough counseling, there have been some 347 discordant couples i dentified.
Ndege says this figure is within the range of the national statistics.
The national average figure for discordant couples in Kenya is about 40 per cent of all those tested positive for HIV/AIDS.
“This is both bad and good news.
If it is (discordant types) discovered early, w ith proper counseling, we can keep the other partner negative…but we still need t o know if the other partner knows the status of their spouse,” he said.
Franklin Tegit, 31, is among one of the 347 couples who have been identified to be discordant.
Tegit says he has no intention of sending his spouse away because she has contracted the disease.
He says his main challenge is to live positive w i th her.
“I will not send her away.
I will seek ways of living with her and seeking treat ment,” Tegit said after a second-round testing for HIV after an initial three mo n th period.
The test was done at his home in Kolonget village, Kaptebee, some 50 kilometres away from Eldoret town.
Tegit says he is a major beneficiary of the home-based care and testing services for HIV/AIDS, which is the new tool against the disease, partly backed by the r u ral lifestyles.
He says the nearest testing centre is 20 kilometres away and whenever he gets th ere, he never gets a chance to get tested because he only heads to town for priv a te business.
AMPATH’s trumpet call and its success in western Kenya is the landmark testing o f some 95 per cent of all the eligible adults for HIV/AIDS as a result of its la n dmark prevention plan, done through the door-to-door counseling and testing of H I V/AIDS.
“We are targeting the entire family through this door-to-door HIV/AIDS testing b ecause we are able to test the spouses.
But you cannot do the prevention of HIV/ A IDS if the other spouse does not know the status of the other,” Dr.
Ndege said.
AMPATH stands for the (Academic Model for the Prevention and Treatment of HIV/AI DS).
The project offers complete care for those tested for HIV/AIDS and gives a n ew livelihood especially to the couples who have no means of survival.
Apart from a major breakthrough that the researchers working on the door-to-door HIV/AIDS testing project have recorded in their research in the Turbo division, about 32 km west of Eldoret town, 350 km west of Nairobi, major challenges still remain.
Jointly funded by the US government through the US International Development Age ncy (USAID), AMPATH combines scientific approaches to the fight against HIV/AIDS and seeks to address the social factors complicating the war against the disease .
The discordant couples appear to create a public health crisis for the researche rs who have been forced to actively hunt down for the spouses if their partners t ested alone.

17 april 2009 11:49:00

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