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Thursday 24th May 2018

The plight of children in Kenya

8th January 2009

Juliane Kippenberg, senior researcher for Africa in the Children’s Rights Division of Human Rights Watch, reports on the plight of children in Kenya with HIV/Aids.


The 20-month-old child Daniel (not his real name), who lives in a small village in western Kenya, is HIV positive.

He may also have tuberculosis, the main cause of death for people living with HIV.

The hospital where he can get a TB test is 10km away and the family cannot afford the fare.

While Kenya has made antiretroviral treatment for AIDs free since 2006, Human Rights Watch (HRW) research suggests not enough is being done for children. Only 20,000 of the 60,000 children who need such life-saving treatment receive it.

The Kenyan government and international donors have focussed on getting drugs to adults to such an extent that children often do not even appear on the statistics.

Food shortages create another problem as drugs can cause severe reactions unless taken with food. In addition, TB drugs cannot be taken together with antiretroviral treatment.

If a child such as Daniel is found to have TB, he must be cured of that before starting ant-retroviral treatment but the question is whether he can survive that long. Half of children in Africa born with HIV die before they are two.

More must be done in Kenya for children suffering from HIV: antiretroviral drugs should be available in local health facilities; health care personnel should be specifically trained to treat children with HIV; and a new policy for expanding access to HIV testing of infants is needed.


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