Kenya aims to reduce HIV infection rates with new treatment

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Kenya’s government is on a drive to reduce the number of HIV infections. Statistics show 80 per cent of new cases occur in adults. But there’s a new treatment in town that could be a game-changer.

Kenya’s government wants to reduce the HIV infection rate by 75 percent among adults, and it’s set an ambitious target for that – the year 2019.

Over 80 per cent of new infections occur in adults.

“Kenya is a country with one of the highest HIV infections worldwide…we are still concerned about the new infections” Dr. Michael Kiragu, a senior technical advisor at LVCT health said.

Many of the new infections are women – but there’s a reason for that.

Pregnant women undergo neo-natal exams, so doctors are able to detect the virus during that stage. It’s believed the infection rate may be higher among men.

But there’s still a taboo and a culture of silence when it comes to declaring one’s status.

“We need to go beyond the traditional ABC’s to address HIV…Meaning more infections are happening in this country” James Ndegwa, policy advisor at the Kenya AIDS NGO Consortium said.

That’s where Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis comes in.

Known as PreP, it’s a drug that significantly reduces the risk of contracting HIV.

And Kenyan authorities hope it may be a game-changer when it comes to reducing the rate of infection.

“We need to create more options. One tool will work for one person and not another so we need to keep investing in more options…” Kiragu said.

“Within the Kenyan context…PReP can be used in combination to try and bring infections down” Ndegwa said.

PreP was introduced in Kenya back in May, but since then, it’s not been as popular as initially hoped.

There are other challenges too.

“Some of the challenge we are having is that it is not accessible…the other issue is affordability of the same” Ndegwa added.

“In terms of getting people to know the right…thats where most of the investment should happen” Kiragu noted.

But for those in the most at risk population who are taking it in combination with ARVs and other treatment, it’s been a game-changer. Discordant couples have found a lifeline through PReP.

“They counselled us well and i was confident. My partner was supportive and we decided not to disclose out status to anyone including our children…we were excited about the option of PreP because we were hoping to try for another child, we were encouraged”

One couple said.

“In the beginning I was afraid because i heard if you contracted HIV your quality of life would be very bad but after the advice I received here on PReP I know i can go on with my life”

PreP has the potential to drastically reduce the rate of infection in Kenya, which is a priority for health authorities in Kenya. And in combination with the various treatments, it can help bring Kenya closer to the ultimate goal of zero HIV infections by the year 2030.

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