A total of 82,000 people are diagnosed with cancer each year while 1.2 million Kenyans are living with HIV/AIDS and require palliative care; Kenya Aids Indicator Survey (KAIS) 2012.

According to 2004-2009 data from the Kenya Medical Research Institute, the most common type of cancer in men is prostate at 15.7% followed by oesophagus (throat) at 8.8%; stomach at 6.5 per cent% and eye at 5.8%.

For women, the top cancers are breast at 22.7% followed by cervix uterus at 21.5% and eye at 5.2 per cent.

There are still millions of people around Kenya who do not have proper access to hospice and palliative care for Cancer, HIV/AIDS and other life threatening illnesses despite the progress.

KAIS indicates that HIV prevalence among adults aged 15 to 64 years decreased nationally from 7.2%, as measured in KAIS 2007 to 5.6% in 2012. HIV prevalence among children aged 18 months to 14 years was 0.9%.

A higher proportion of women aged 15 to 64 years (6.9%) than men (4.4%) were infected with HIV.

This year’s World Hospice and Palliative Care Day 2013 will be celebrated on 12th October 2013 with the theme, ‘Achieving Universal Coverage of Palliative Care: Dispelling the Myths’

Kenya Hospices and Palliative Care Association (KEHPCA) and its partners are focusing on ‘dispelling the myths’ and encouraging people to promote the facts about hospice and palliative care.

KEHPCA will be working with its partners across the country to dispel the following inaccurate perceptions about palliative care:

MYTH: I can only get palliative care in hospital

FACT: Palliative care services are offered in many places, including hospitals, hospices and in your own home.

  • MYTH: Palliative care manages pain through the use of addictive narcotics.

FACT: Palliative care is whole person care that provides psychosocial and spiritual care along with pain and symptom management.

MYTH: Hospice and palliative care accelerates death.

FACT: Hospice and palliative care aims to neither prolong nor accelerate death but rather ensures quality of life until the very end.

MYTH: Hospice and palliative care is just for people with cancer

FACT: All those who are diagnosed with a chronic life-limiting illness can benefit from hospice and palliative care

MYTH: Hospices are generally just for old people

FACT: Hospice and palliative care is provided to people of all ages – from infancy to adulthood.

MYTH: Everyone has access to hospice and palliative care

FACT: Though every person has the right to hospice and palliative care, there are many around the world who do not have access to hospice and palliative care.

MYTH: Having hospice and palliative care means you will die soon.

FACT: Hospice and palliative care is not just for the end of life. It is a holistic approach that includes caregiver support, spiritual care, bereavement and much more.

To ensure all those with life-threatening conditions are cared for with dignity and according to their wishes, KEHPCA is calling for nationally integrated hospice and palliative care health systems across the country.

Hospice and palliative care is essential for any national health care system to fully care for those with the most serious chronic illnesses. Palliative care is for all persons with limited life expectancy no matter what their disease or age. Palliative care is safe, effective and promotes dignity, comfort, and support.

To mark this day of action, advocates, patients and carers are unified in calling for urgent action from UN agencies, governments, the private sector, and civil society to improve access to palliative care for people with life-limiting conditions by integrating palliative care into existing services. They also urge these institutions to engage in public education to dispel unhelpful myths and promote hospice and palliative care facts.

World Hospice and Palliative Care Day is a day of celebration for the progress that has been made in reducing pain and suffering. But it is also a day to shine a light on neglected or marginalised groups that are still unable to get the care that they require.

In addition to better integration of hospice and palliative care into health care, the global hospice and palliative care community is stressing the need for:

  • More training for health professionals and carers;
  • Improved access to pain and symptom management medications;
  • The inclusion of hospice and palliative care into existing health policies;
  • Opportunities for older people to be involved in decisions around their care.

To mark World Hospice and Palliative Care Day 2013 thousands of people in over 70 countries will come together at more than 1,000 events to celebrate, support and speak up about hospice and palliative care.

In Kenya, over 10 events are scheduled, some of which have already taken place, ranging from walks, marathons, screening and advocacy aimed at raising palliative care awareness and dispelling these myths.