In a particularly inspiring and heartrending scene from the movie "Bohemian Rhapsody", rock legend Freddie Mercury is said to have "he has it". AIDS.
He knows his days are numbered because there is no cure. He insists that he remains a performer until his last day. The singer, who was born in East Africa, died shortly afterwards.
Mercury joined 39 million people who died 36 years ago since the outbreak of the epidemic, shortly after the discovery and isolation of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). This is one of two infected men and women.
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Kenyans would be glad to know that their fate will most likely not be the same. Only in the last five years has the number of AIDS-related deaths dropped dramatically by 40 percent, and Kenya is leading the global trend.
This week, the United Nations praised our country's leadership for being on track to meet the "90-90-90 targets" by 2020. This means diagnosing 90 percent of all HIV-positive individuals and treating 90 percent of those diagnosed. and the suppression of the virus in 90 percent of people who receive AIDS drugs. This is a performance.
Thanks to an ambitious plan to fight AIDS, which was adopted in 2014, the rate of new HIV infections from 100,000 to 50,000 Kenyans has been reduced by 51 percent. For a nation that has always been one of the hardest hit countries, that's no small matter.
This success only gives reason to act even more confident. With the booming population growth in Africa and the growing ease of travel, our youth need to stay informed about the risks of HIV transmission. In addition, all African countries must adhere to Kenya's leadership role in conducting toll-free and shameless diagnostic tests and consultations.
Progress can be easily mitigated by spreading bad stories in the media, but progress is real. In ancient times, a broken bone would mean that you can never hunt again or work on the fields. Yellow fever, tuberculosis, dengue fever, cholera, hepatitis, syphilis, malaria, measles, river blindness or sleeping sickness were some of Africa's strongest enemies. We either exterminated or severely repressed the majority of them.
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AIDS, in particular, is "an epidemic that killed more than a million people in the region once a year," said United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. This, like other public health milestones, is the result of global investment in science and the right policies and government to implement them.
Kenya can not only become a global trendsetter in HIV programming. Parliament must be fully committed to the President's Universal Health Coverage Program (UHC). It needs to provide the necessary legislative and budgetary support to help our country cope with many more health challenges. It must be properly implemented nationwide by 2022 – as the two governments of Uhuru Kenyatta have proven to be able to deal with the AIDS goals. But that would require more than good science and good government. The 90-90-90 AIDS goals would never have been achieved without the commitment of civil society.
This includes significant lobbying to prevent and diagnose, eradicating shame, providing governmental treatment or community support networks for infected individuals and their families.
Initiatives such as Liverpool VCT Health, a local non-governmental organization that offers HIV prevention, testing, care and treatment, deserve a lot of recognition. The private sector, which partnered with First Lady Margaret Kenyatta's Beyond Zero platform to stop the mother-to-child transmission of HIV by funding 52 mobile clinics in each county, had successfully helped prevent the transmission of the virus to children to reduce more than 60 percent 5 years.
"Who wants to live forever?" Asks Freddie Mercury in one of Queen's memorable hits. But that's not really the question. Everyone should be able to live as long as possible.
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The scientific community and the Cabinet must deliver the solutions and implement programs that leave no one behind – in terms of AIDS and all other health challenges. We citizens of all walks of life must also play our role.
-The author is Igembe North MP
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HIV / AIDS Universal Health Insurance Program