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Kisumu County Joins Study to Find Solution for HIV-Related Deaths

By Treezer Michelle Atieno

Kisumu County is embarking on a critical step to improve healthcare outcomes for people living with HIV. A new study, led by Emory University’s Child Health and Mortality Prevention Surveillance (CHAMPS) program and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, aims to understand the causes of death among adults with HIV, despite advances in antiretroviral therapy (ART).

Kisumu County’s inclusion in this study is crucial, given its significant HIV burden. According to the 2022 World AIDS Day Report, an estimated 883,694 Kenyans aged 35 to 74 live with HIV, and Kisumu County plays a central role in ART uptake and mortality prevention. While the county has been at the forefront of ART distribution, leading to a significant reduction in AIDS-related deaths, other health issues are increasingly affecting this ageing HIV-positive population.

The study will be conducted in the Kisumu region, encompassing Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital (JOOTRH) and Siaya County Referral Hospital. It aims to shed light on the specific causes of death among adults with HIV. JOOTRH alone provides HIV services to over 6,500 adults, highlighting the urgency of understanding the factors contributing to the 116 HIV-related deaths recorded between January 2022 and March 2023.

CHAMPS has expertise in child mortality studies but will leverage its extensive network and laboratory capacity to investigate the causes of death among adults living with HIV. This includes utilizing advanced diagnostics and established procedures such as minimally invasive tissue sampling and verbal autopsies. The comprehensive approach aims to uncover the specific markers of Advanced HIV Disease (AHD) and other underlying conditions leading to death.

Victor Akelo, who will lead the study in Kenya, emphasizes its potential impact on HIV programs. By identifying the definitive causes of death, healthcare interventions can be better tailored to address these issues, thereby improving the quality of life and reducing mortality among adults living with HIV, which is particularly important in low-resource settings like Kisumu, where HIV-related deaths remain high despite widespread ART availability.

The findings will be openly accessible, enabling local and global health programs, policymakers, and practitioners to use the data to refine and enhance HIV treatment and prevention strategies. This transparency and knowledge-sharing is expected to drive significant improvements in HIV care, particularly in underserved communities.

CHAMPS has a proven track record of identifying causes of stillbirths and child deaths across Africa and South Asia. Expanding its scope to include adults aged 18-64 living with HIV will provide valuable insights that could transform HIV care and policy. The three-year study positions Kisumu County to play a pivotal role in this research.

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