Government launches HIV prevention drugs

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Director of Medical Services Jackson Kioko during the launch of the HIV prevention drug, PrEP
Director of Medical Services Jackson Kioko during the launch of the HIV prevention drug, PrEP

The government has started providing drugs that will help trim out HIV infection to individuals at risk. Speaking during the launch of the Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), a cost-free HIV drug for people at risk, Dr Jackson Kioko, Director of Medical Services said Kenya has made a significant progress in the reduction of HIV infections in the past decade through the scaling up of HIV prevention programs.

“Access to HIV treatment for over 1 million Kenyans has improved the quality of life of adults and children living with HIV. Despite this progress, an estimated 70,000 Kenyans and above have been affected with HIV since 2015, half of this being the young people between the age 15-25 with young women bearing a third of all new infections,” disclosed Kioko.

He added that as the government is trying to expand the HIV treatment program, the war on HIV epidemic may not be won until it reduces the rate of new infections. “This can only be done through greater investment in HIV prevention programs that will ensure those who are not infected are kept uninfected,” he quipped.

Dr Kioko also noted that The Ministry of Health is now introducing Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) as an addition to existing HIV prevention interventions such as HIV testing services, risk reduction counselling, Voluntary Medical Male circumcision, condoms and elimination of mother to child transmission.

Dr Martin Sirengo, the Head of National AIDS and STD control program (NASCOP) encourages everyone to know their HIV status at their own comfort and in privacy by using the self-testing kits which were also introduced.

“Kenya has set targets to reduce annual new infection by 75% by 2019, at present over 80% of new HIV infections occur in adults while notable progress has been made in the reduction of HIV infections, certain populations remain at risk of HIV infection,” said Dr Sirengo.

He added that Kenya will offer PrEP as part of HIV combination prevention for people at substantial ongoing risk of HIV infection. The HIV epidemic in Kenya remains high.