World AIDS Day: Kenya battles rampant HIV, with 8,000 children infected in 2018

The Kenyan government is battling the spread of the HIV virus with a nationwide campaign, but infections remain rampant: In 2018, 46,000 people tested positive, including 8,000 children under 15 years old.

With 1.6 million Kenyans living with AIDS, the eastern African country is the third most affected nation in the world.

Transmission of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, from mother to child is still common and extremely difficult to contain, mainly in the capital Nairobi's low-income neighbourhoods, and babies are often infected during breastfeeding.

“Education, education, education for the young people is key on prevention of HIV to the children once they get pregnant,” says Faith Kungu, a nutritionist at the Lea Toto clinic in Nairobi.

Despite free healthcare, 4,000 minors died of HIV-related causes in 2018. An HIV positive status is still a taboo and can lead to exclusion from society. Some women opt out of taking medicine to avoid suspicion.

“When you stay with peers sometimes you don't want to expose yourself, you want to stay take your medicines alone,” says one AIDS patient at Nyumbani Village, three hours outside of Nairobi.

Kenya invests hundreds of millions of euros every year to fight the epidemic. Since 2010, child infections have decreased by 41 percent. But much remains to be done.

“Kenya has reduction of stigma as one of its strategic objectives. But we are still seeing a lot of stigma both from the public, but also from service providers, surprisingly,” says Abdhalah Ziraba, a researcher at the African Population and Health Research Center.

Click on the player above to watch our special report from Nairobi by Bastien Renouil and Julia Steers.