Kenya is among the sub-Saharan African countries most affected by HIV/AIDS. Nyanza specifically has the highest HIV prevalence in Kenya – more than 15-fold higher than the province with the lowest rate[i]. In 2011, there were approximately 13,000 new child infections[ii] with mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) as the primary cause.
Several societal issues lead to such a high rate of MTCT in Kenya. One important factor is the continued lack of understanding about the correlation between risky sex behaviours and HIV/AIDS. This ignorance leads to high rates of unsafe sex. For example, data from 2009 showed that 60% of women and 36% of men did NOT use a condom with their most recent partner[iii].
Mother-to-child transmission infections occur during pregnancy, at birth, or through breastfeeding but if a mother takes antiretroviral medicines during pregnancy, the chances of transmission diminish dramatically. Unfortunately, another societal issue is that many women in Kenya don’t have information about the importance of healthcare during or after pregnancy. Furthermore, around half of all mothers in Kenya still opt for home deliveries with Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAs). TBAs are pregnancy care providers who are often not licensed nor regulated by the government and have no education in healthcare.
i UNAIDS, The Kenya AIDS epidemic, 2011
ii AVERT, HIV/AIDS and Kenya, 2011
iii UNICEF, Kenya: PMTCT Factsheet, 2010