Kenya: Testing campaign surpasses one million target

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NAIROBI, 24 December 2009 (PlusNews) - An ambitious, door-to-door voluntary testing and counselling exercise launched in November resulted in more than 1.5 million Kenyans being tested for HIV, according to a senior government official.

"Our preliminary data show that during the three weeks that we conducted the door-to-door voluntary testing and counselling campaign, we tested 1.5 million people and as we continue putting our records together, we could go way above this number," Nicholas Muraguri, director of the National AIDS and Sexually transmitted infections Control Programme (NASCOP), told IRIN/PlusNews.

"Normally men do not come forward to be tested but this time round we are impressed... our results show they formed 40 percent of the total number tested," he added. "Those above 50 also turned out in large numbers; government research shows they are at risk because they too are sexually active."

He noted that the campaign reached out to most at-risk populations such as commercial sex workers through "moonlight" VCT centres that opened out of regular business hours.

The campaign was part of the government's initiative to have at least 80 percent of Kenyans tested for HIV by end-2010; according to NASCOP, 40 percent of Kenyans have been tested at least once.

Meanwhile, a rapid results initiative to improve the uptake of voluntary medical male circumcision in 11 districts in the country's western Nyanza Province has seen up to 35,000 men undergo the procedure, exceeding the envisaged target of 30,000.

The initiative - part of a larger national campaign to have at least one million Kenyan men undergo circumcision by 2013 - was launched in November and lasted six weeks. Nyanza is home to the Luo ethnic community, the largest non-circumcising community in Kenya; about 85 percent of the country's men are circumcised.

"The high numbers in Nyanza are an assurance that people are ready to embrace male circumcision as an HIV/AIDS prevention measure and we must now put in more effort to meet the overwhelming demand," Muraguri said. "The fact that many youths were coming out of school during the exercise helped in shoring up numbers.

"Even as we celebrate the number, we want to ensure that people get the message that male circumcision in itself is not a panacea to HIV prevention and it is the reason we offer a full package of HIV prevention services during the exercise, including condom distribution," he added.



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