The County Commissioner, The CEC Member for Health, Hon Dr. Jama Wolde; All CEC Members present MCA Laisamis Ward, Hon Bulcha, Other MCAs present here today; The CO for Health, Mrs. Fatuma Jillo; Other COs Present The County Aids & STD Coordinator, Mr. Hassan Abdub Salesa The CEO Laisamis Hospital, Mr. Abshiro Hapicha. Directors of Health and all Staff of Marsabit County Government Present The Great People of Laisamis; Distinguished Guests; Ladies & Gentlemen; Today, we join the rest of the world to commemorate the 2018 World AIDS Day. On this 30th World Aids Day commemoration, we stand in solidarity with the 78 million people who have become infected with HIV. We remember the 35 million who have died from AIDS-related illnesses since the first cases of HIV were reported in 1984. Today is also a day for us to take stock of the progress we made and the challenges we faced in the fight against the HIV pandemic. I thank the Almighty God for enabling us commemorate this day. I thank you all for making time to be here with me in Laisamis. Ladies and Gentlemen: Since the beginning of the HIV and AIDS pandemic 34 years ago, more than 70 million people across the world have been infected with HIV, while over 35 million have already succumbed to it. As at 2017, about 36.7 million People across the world were living with HIV. In Kenya alone, the total number of people living with HIV is estimated at approximately 1.5 million in 2017, with the national adult prevalence of HIV standing at 4.9%. The HIV prevalence is higher among women than men standing at 5.2% and 4.5% respectively. While AIDS-related deaths have decreased since 2010 in all other age groups, among older adolescents aged15 to 49 they have remained stubbornly constant. About 1.3 million 15- to 49-year-olds were living HIV in 2017, three in five of them are girls. Children under 15 years of age account for 7% of all persons living with HIV in 2017, while 12% of the total number of people living with HIV was among the youth between15-24 years. It is a sad state of affairs to note that every 3 minutes, a girl between 15 to 19 years is infected with the virus. Girls and young women made up two-thirds of 15 to 19 year-olds infected with HIV in 2017. In our own County, there are 103 new HIV infections in 2017, comprising of 87 adults and 16 children. The number of people living with HIV as at 2017 is 2,577, among which 2,372 are adults above 15 years, while 206 are children between 0 and 14 years. In 2017alone, Marsabit lost 54 lives (46 adults and 8 children) to AIDS related illness. The HIV prevalence rate in Marsabit stands at 1.4%. If you are wondering what 1.4% means, this is what it means: if there are 1000 people attending this event today,14 people among us will be HIV positive. The HIV prevalence among Marsabit women is 1.8%, while that of men is 0.8% – a clear indication that Marsabit women are more vulnerable to HIV infection than men in the County. The figures means that if we’ve 1000 women & 1000 men gracing this event, 18 women & 8 men are likely to test positive for HIV. Ladies and Gentlemen: Whilst the HIV prevalence in Marsabit is lower than the national prevalence, at 1.4% and 4.9%respectively, we are not doing quite well in a number of areas. Firstly, the Mother to Child transmission rate in Marsabit is two times higher than the national average. It is heart breaking to note that 76% of HIV positive women do not deliver in health facility, and as a likely consequence of that, 23.3% of HIV infected pregnant women in Marsabit transmitted HIV to their babies. This is double the national average of Mother to Child transmission rate, which is at11.5%! Secondly, theAnti Retro Viral drug coverage in Marsabit is lower than the national average.Whilst 75% of HIV positive adults and 84% of children are on ARV drugs nationally, the number of people on Anti retro viral drugs in Marsabit is 49%for adults and 78% for children. Thirdly, Marsabit has very low rates of HIV testing, with men taking the lead in this area. What does this tell us? That, for us to win the war against HIV and AIDS in Marsabit, we should focus on the triple threats facing us, namely: a high risk of HIV infection(especially mother to child transmission); low coverage HIV treatment; and low rates of HIV testing (especially among men). As a County, our target is therefore to: eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV; expand antiretroviral treatment to reach all those in need; have everyone to get tested. Realizing these targets, demands concerted efforts of all. To eliminate mother to child HIV transmission, and to expand ARV coverage, the County Department of HealthService should devise innovative and home grown techniques relevant to the context and people of Marsabit. I promise you that we will give you all the necessary support for you to achieve these targets. Whatever our individual situation may be, wherever we may live in this County, we all need access to the tools to protect us from HIV and to access antiretroviral medicines should we need them. On the thorny issue of getting everyone tested for HIV, the theme of this year’s World Aids Day, which is: Know Your HIV Status: Mwanaume, Jipime Jijue, appears to have been coined with Marsabit in mind! It is important for us all to know that whilst urban centres are the highest contributor, HIV prevalence in Marsabit is not confined to any area: Every town is an emerging hotspot! Whereas everyone can be safe, as at now no one is safe. I am calling on everyone and especially Marsabit men, beginning with those present here today to take lead and get tested for HIV in line with this year’s theme. Know Your HIV Status: Mwanaume, JipimeJijue. Finally, I want to recognize the efforts of National AIDS Control Council and other Partners who have stood with us and have committed themselves to journey with us, as we strive to get to Zero: Zero new infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS related deaths. We are most grateful for all the support. I also want to applaud all our health professionals who have had the responsibilities of caring for HIV infected persons for the care and love they have shown to their patients. The irrelentless effort to the fight against HIV and AIDS in this County will never go unrecognized. This year, I have been particularly informed of the efforts by the Community Health Workers! The Community Health Workers of Marsabit should be proud of yourself, because we are proud of you for the good work you are doing in your County. This commemoration will not be complete without the mention of the many psycho-social groups in Marsabit which are also called “Post-Test Clubs”. These groups are made up of individuals who are living positively and have made their status known. The groups from Saku, Laisamis, North Horr, Moyale to Loyangalani have encouraged many people who are infected but have chosen to hide themselves, to come out and seek medications. They have contributed immensely to fight against stigma. I salute them all! Ladies and Gentlemen: As I conclude, I want to remind ourselves of our commitment to end the AIDSepidemic by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals. The goal of eradicating the HIV and AIDS pandemic can be achieved if we tailor the response to individual needs at particular times in life. Now is the time to move forward together to ensure that all children in Marsabit start their lives free from HIV; that Marsabityoung people and Marsabit adults stay free from HIV; and that ARV treatment becomes more accessible so that everyone in Marsabit lives an AIDS-free life! Thank you and May God bless you all. H.E Alamitu Jattani First Lady, Marsabit County