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People Living with HIV Await Key Government Word on Drug Successfully Tried in Kenya

By Henry Neondo, Netherlands Aid

June 15, 2012


A decision by the Kenya’s Pharmacy and Poisons Board and the National AIDS Surveillance Programme would be key to prevent the high infections of HIV in marriage.

The decision would help provide easy access to a drug successfully tried and tested in Kenya and found to be capable of preventing an HIV negative spouse from infection even while sexually living with an HIV positive partner.

According to Josephine Odoyo, Study Coordinator, Partners Pr-exposure prophylaxis (Prep) Study, Kenya Medical Research Institute, Kisumu said Thursday in Nairobi that although the two government agencies will need to know how much it will cost to determine accessibility, who will be the target group, will it be rolled out for everyone or to specific individuals.

The roll out of Prep will be for those people who are HIV negative to prevent them from acquiring the virus that leads to AIDS.

The study started in 2008 at Tororo, Kampala, Kabohe, Jinja and Mbale (Uganda), Kisumu, Thika, Nairobi and Eldoret (Kenya). It was funded by Bill and Melinda Foundation through the University of Washington who worked in partnership with the KEMRI in Kenya and other research agencies in Uganda, enrolling 4, 700 discordant couples (where one spouse is HIV positive while the other is negative).

Over 629 couples were enrolled in Kisumu alone and they were followed for between 24 and 36 months.

The study aimed at investigating safety and effectiveness of the Truvada in 1,500 couples. In July 2011, the drug was found to be effective. Tenofivir was found to offer 65% protection while Truvada offered 75% protection.

“Importantly, PrEP was found to be safe,” said Odoyo adding that the results of the study demonstrate that PrEP should become an integral part of global efforts for HIV prevention and be part of evidence-based combination HIV prevention.

Prep (to be taken by people before sexual act in bid to prevent possibility of infection by HIV) will complement post exposure prophylaxis (taken after having the sexual act), ARV treatment (taken by people already HIV positive).

“All these aim to give people options in bid to fight HIV,” she said.

But this drug was a US’s Federal Drugs Agency audited drug and although the agency found the procedure of study trial and the results were satisfactory to the FDA who are also set to give their final verdict later in September, the final word on whether the drug would be used in Kenya or not lies on Kenya’s relevant authorities.

According to NASCOP, 10-15 per cent HIV prevalence rate is among discordant couples and many of the new HIV infection occur in heterosexual relationships (in marriage).

An estimated 7,400 people a day are being infected with HIV, according to UNAIDS which also says more than 60 million people have been infected with HIV since the pandemic began.

AIDS resulting from HIV infection is the leading cause of death in sub-Saharan Africa, and the fourth leading cause of death globally.

Traditional prevention methods, including abstinence, being faithful to one sexual partner, and using condoms (the ABC’s of HIV prevention), are well known; however, not everyone is able to use these methods all of the time.

Women are especially vulnerable. The majority of HIV infections in Africa occur among women.

For many women, the current prevention methods are inadequate, since they often do not have the social or economic power to refuse sex or negotiate condom use. A vaccine against HIV is most likely more than 10 years away.

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