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Agence France-Presse
Kenya-AIDS: AIDS a national disaster but condoms not answer:

November 26, 1999
MOMBASA, Kenya, Nov 26 (AFP) - President Daniel arap Moi of Kenya, where AIDS kills 500 people every day, on Thursday declared the disease a national disaster but declined to advocate condom use to fight the epidemic.

Addressing the official opening of a four-day AIDS awareness symposium for legislators here on Thursday, Moi ordered the immediate setting up of a National AIDS Control Council.

The new council will coordinate the various initiatives already in place to combat the spread of of Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV), the virus that leads to Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).

However, Moi said his government and Kenya's churches would not advocate the use of condoms as a method of prevention, because this would be tantamount to advocating casual sex among the young.

"Youths must be made aware of the futility of promiscuous sex," he warned. According to one study, condom use has saved more than 110,000 Kenyans from HIV infection.

As from January, all schools and colleges will give special lessons aimed at educating children about HIV and AIDS.

Chiefs and their assistants were ordered to form committees of elders to produce solutions to cultural practices and beliefs that help the spread of the deadly disease.

The latest move follows a series of initiatives. In 1987, the government set up an AIDS Programme Secretariat and there is already a National AIDS/STD Control Programme (NASCOP) within the health ministry.

In September, NASCOP strongly urged the government to set up a council with wide-ranging powers.

Non-governmental agencies have also formed a consortium to fight AIDS. Moi noted with conern that up to 500 Kenyans were dying daily due to AIDS, and that two million HIV-positive Kenyans were expected to die in the next 10 years.

Moi termed AIDS/HIV a tragedy to the entire human race and stressed that it was the most serious challenge to health and socio-economic development.

"AIDS is not just a serious threat to our social and economic development, it is a real threat to our very existence, and every effort must be made to bring the problem under control," Moi told the symposium, attended by some 224 Kenyan members of parliament.

"No family in Kenya remains untouched by the effects of the disease, action is needed to avert a total disaster," Moi said, noting that those not suffering from the disease were forced to spend a lot of money in treating their affected relatives and care for them.

He also urged the courts to deal sternly with people found to be deliberately spreading HIV.

Caroline Sergent of Britain's Department for International Development expressed the agency's determination to help Kenya fight the spread of AIDS, pledging an annual three billion Kenyan shillings (about 40 million dollars) of British money over the the next five years.

UN Children's Fund country representative Crispin Wilson described the AIDS scourge as Africa's undeclared Third World War and the greatest threat to the continent's future.

Wilson noted that the disease had by 1999 killed an estimated 760,000 people in Kenya and that the number of those infected, currently about 1.9 million people (of a total population of 30 million), was increasing alarmingly.

He pointed out that 55 percent of those infected were women and young people. Health Minister Sam Ongeri noted that about half of all beds in government hospitals were accupied by AIDS patients, with the worst-affected districts being Busia and Kisumu in western Kenya.