Victoria Beckham thanks British Airways for supporting the UNAIDS mission in Kenya. Photo courtesy of Victoria Beckham Twitter handle.
By HEALTH CORRESPONDENT
UNAIDS International Goodwill Ambassador Victoria Beckham finalized her tour of Kenya saying HIV testing, prevention and treatment services were critical to ending the AIDS epidemic.
Ms Beckham and her son, Brooklyn Beckham, completed a three-day mission to Kenya with Born Free Africa and UNAIDS to raise awareness about HIV.
UNAIDS estimates that 1.5 million people are living with HIV in Kenya, with about 71 000 new HIV infections among adults in 2015. One third of all new HIV infections occurred among young women and adolescent girls aged 15–24 years, who are at particularly high risk.
There were 6600 new HIV infections among children in 2015. The Government of Kenya is committed to ending AIDS and in addition to funding its own national HIV work has recently pledged US$ 5 million to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and US$ 500 000 to UNAIDS to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.
Although HIV testing, prevention and treatment services are critical to ending the AIDS epidemic, often people, in particular young people, do not access services owing to lack of information and the stigma and discrimination linked to HIV.
Ms Beckham’s visit focused on preventing new HIV infections among newborn children and keeping their mothers healthy and the urgency of promoting HIV testing, prevention and treatment for young people, especially adolescent girls and young women.
During the mission, Victoria and Brooklyn Beckham travelled across the country visiting exciting projects that aim to reduce the effects of HIV in Kenya.
They met with community and health workers to understand the challenges they face in their work and learned about their many successes.
Victoria Beckham and son Brooklyn Beckham hanging out with teenagers in Kenya. She asked them to get tested, know their status and get treatment. Photo courtesy of Victoria Beckham Twitter handle.
Victoria and Brooklyn spent time with children and talked to young people and adults living with or affected by HIV, hearing first-hand their personal stories and experiences of HIV.
Alongside his mother, Brooklyn took part in a national football campaign “Maisha kick out HIV stigma”, which aims to motivate young people to get HIV tested.
Brooklyn joined the football match and showed off his footballing talents on the pitch.
There have been many successes in the AIDS response, but Ms Beckham used the opportunity to highlight that the AIDS epidemic is far from over.
UNAIDS Country Director, Jantine Jacobi, said the world had come a long way together to overcome AIDS.
“We know the facts, we have the tools, but we need commitment, action and funding to see this through! Ending AIDS can happen, but will only happen if we join together and end all forms of stigma and discrimination,” the UN official said.
The UNAIDS Country Director said having the support of Ms Beckham as the UN’s International Goodwill Ambassador was extremely important for Kenya in moving towards ending the AIDS epidemic as a public health threat.
The mission was organized by the Kenyan Ministry of Health, Born Free Africa and UNAIDS.