Kenya to roll out new drug to curb HIV infection in April

Kenya’s health ministry said on Tuesday that it will roll out the new HIV intervention measure dubbed Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP).

The Head of the National AIDS and STI Control Programme (NASCOP) Martin Sirengo said the new HIV intervention measure will be rolled out in the country from April and will involve the use of PrEP among people who are HIV negative but who face the risk of contracting the disease.

“When you are on PrEP you must arm yourself with other preventive measures because no one method is 100 per cent effective,” he said in a statement released by the ministry of health on Monday night.

“If you engage in sex with multiple partners please use condoms. This method is being introduced as part of a package of services; don’t use it as the magic bullet,” he cautioned.

The intervention seeks to lower the country’s HIV transmission rate by administering oral antiretroviral medication (ARVs) to HIV negative individuals who face a substantial risk of contracting HIV.

These include HIV negative individuals in serodiscordant relationships (where one partner is HIV positive and the other is HIV negative); people who frequently contract Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs); individuals who are unable to negotiate condom use and safe sex in situations of repeated sexual or gender based violence; people who frequently use Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) as well as HIV-negative injecting drug users.

Rigorous assessment criteria will be used to determine those who qualify for treatment with PrEP only being administered to individuals who are above 15 years of age and who are HIV negative.

They will also be screened for kidney disease and Hepatitis B and C. Those who have pre-existing kidney disease will not qualify for PrEP while those who have Hepatitis B or C will be placed on specific medication.

Kenya becomes the second country in Africa, after South Africa, to roll out PrEP. However, it is widely used in developed countries. This has been necessitated by the rate of new HIV infections in the country.

In 2015, Kenya reported 77,600 new HIV infections. Out of these, 71,000 were found to be in people aged 15 and above.

Sirengo cautioned users to combine PrEP with other preventive interventions like use of condoms and male circumcision to further reduce the risk of acquiring HIV.

He added that for PrEP to be effective users will have to take a pill every day and will be monitored on a regular basis. They shall also be required to take an HIV test every three months. In the unlikely event that they acquire HIV while on PrEP, they will be placed on ARVs.

“PrEP will be available for free in select public health facilities with the government spending between 60 U.S. dollars to 70 dollars on one individual per year. The government is similarly working on the modalities of catering for free kidney and liver tests,” Sirengo said.

PrEP takes seven days to be effective and users should continue taking it for as long as they are at risk. The intervention measure works by preventing HIV from getting into the cells and multiplying.

Individuals who engage in transactional sex and other high risk behaviour are advised to go for an HIV test every three months. It is otherwise recommended that one gets an HIV test at least once a year.

Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the People’s Republic of China