Friday, August 28, 2009

Statistics do not Cause HIV

The Kenya National Aids Control Council (NACC) has published a document containing some projections of HIV related figures up to 2015. Much of the data is from the 2008 Kenya Aids Indicator Survey (KAIS), which itself used data collected in 2007. You can't accuse them of being up to date, but it's better than nothing.

The KAIS report made it clear that HIV prevalence has been rising in Kenya for several years, contrary to what earlier data had suggested. The increases are very pronounced in rural areas but there have been some decreases in urban areas.

Increases have also been higher among males than females, which is the more remarkable in Kenya because female prevalence is usually substantially higher than male.

The exact state of the HIV epidemic in Kenya, or any other country, is difficult to determine. Especially when using data several years old. Indeed, only a small percentage of Kenyans have ever been tested, so that adds another element of questionability to the picture. And this report also points out that methods of estimating figures have changed, so any conclusions made must be viewed with this in mind.

But a lot of things have changed since 2007. The global financial climate is very different. Kenya's economy is in bad condition, many people are being made redundant, prices for food and everyday goods are high and rising, there have been prolonged droughts and civil disturbances, there are shortages of fuel, water, staple foods and other goods.

A lot of people are under more pressure now than they were two years ago. More people are being forced to look for alternative ways of making a living or supplementing their living. So things are particularly hard for people who were already struggling, who were already spending most of their income on food, who have been barely able to get by for as long as they can remember.

People who resort to commercial or transactional sex work of some kind are at even greater risk now than they were just a few years ago. They have to accept less money and so have more clients; they have to do more risky things; and they have to put up with treatment they may otherwise have been able to avoid.

The warning signs of increased HIV transmission are not a matter of whether the figures look as if things are getting better, getting worse, stabilising or remaining a bit random and ambiguous. Some of the warning signs include the numbers of people depending on risky ways of making money and the people who are depending on those people. There are warning signs in factories and sweat shops, in sugar, tea and sizal plantations where most people work for a pittance. There are also warning signs in the numbers of people migrating from rural to urban areas to get work or those migrating from urban to rural areas because they have no work.

The warning signs of increased HIV transmission are everywhere except in the data, which should make things a whole lot easier. That's if the NACC and other HIV/Aids bodies considered how HIV is transmitted.

It is the conditions under which people have sex, such as how often, for what reason, whether it is voluntary or forced, with whom and with how many different people, how healthy they are, etc, that determines how likely they are to be infected with HIV.

Those who have ignored the past and continue to ignore the present shouldn't waste their time trying to predict the future.



tracwam said...

this is a great work. if there is a way to get this out to everyone. problem is not many people who need this information have access.

keep up the good work. there must be be a way somehow

magssno said...

"The increases are very pronounced in rural areas but there have been some decreases in urban areas."
I agree with what Tracwam says and I think the sentence above sums it up.

Word is getting round in the more populated towns and cities - the people here are beginning to get more access to information. Unfortunately ways and the money still have to be found to reach isolated areas.

All anyone can do is the best they can.