The government yesterday launched the pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PreP) prevention of HIV and an innovative self-testing service.
PreP is an anti-retroviral drug taken by HIV negative people who are at another risk of HIV infection. The drug is taken at least seven days before exposure or sex with somebody considered to be at at risk.
The Ministry of Health rolled out the two new strategies in the prevention of new infections of HIV known as Pre exposure prophylaxis of HIV (PrEP) as well as a new innovation of HIV Self Testing.
The strategies are aimed at at helping Kenyans to prevent part of the over 78,000 new HIV infections every year.
The country records about 213 new infections daily. The government hopes to reduce the new infections per year down to 50, 000.
Director of Medical Services, Dr. Jackson Kioko said the new strategies are meant to get more people to know their HIV status. “And so we are saying, get to know your HIV status through this new test. Be SELF-SURE. Test yourself today,” Kioko said at a Nairobi hotel where he unveiled the PrEP, a pill taken once daily by HIV negative persons at high risk of HIV.
“If you perceive yourself to be at high risk of HIV, visit a health provider near you and ask about Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP),” he told Kenyans.
PrEP users he said, must be willing to take the pills daily without a break for the entire period they are at risk for it to be effective. Experts who spoke at the event said, if taken corectly, it gives over 90 per cent effectiveness.
PrEP will be provided for free in selected health outlets and facilities but if one wishes to purchase across the counter, it will cost them about Sh3600 (36 dollars) per per month.
“The HIV self test will initially be available in the private sector at a cost of between Sh850-950 but my Ministry will work to make self testing available in the public sector for free in the near future,” said Kioko.
Alongside, the PrEP, Kioko also launched the Self testing strategy which is aimed at reaching over 400,000 Persons Living With HIV (PLHIV) who are out there and oblivious of their HIV status, “many of them being men, adolescents and the youth.”
Self-test is a screening test and anyone who tests positive by this test must get a confirmation at a health facility.
“With these new interventions, Kenya is now on track to achieve the global targets of “Zero New Infections, Zero AIDS-related deaths and Zero discrimination. Notably, New HIV infections are less than a third of what they were at the peak of the country’s epidemic in 1993, because of the government HIV prevention strategies in partnership with development and implementing partners,” he added.
As outlined in the Kenya AIDS Strategic Framework 2014-2019, the ministry’s goal is to reduce new HIV infections by 75 per cent; reducing AIDS related mortality by 25 per cent and HIV-related stigma and discrimination by 50 per cent by 2019.
“To achieve these targets, we must fully adopt the 90-90-90 strategy that seeks to have 90 per cent of HIV infected persons know their HIV status, 90 per cent of these receive antiretroviral therapy; and at least 90 per cent achieve viral suppression among those on Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART),” Kioko added.
The new HIV prevention method was fist initiated in 2016, becoming the second country in Sub-Saharan africa to roll out this new method, which uses antiretroviral drugs to protect HIV-negative people from HIV before potential exposure to the virus.
According to the Head of National AIDS and STIs Control Programme (NASCOP), Dr. Martin Sirengo, these additional HIV interventions will help break a new ground by offering a revolutionary approach to HIV prevention for Kenyans at risk of acquiring HIV.
Oral PrEP has been evaluated in key populations among them Men who have Sex with Men (MSMs) and women and people who inject drugs. “In each of these contexts, the statistics are clear; PrEP trials have taken place in Africa, Asia, Europe, North America and South America.
“PrEP should only be taken by the person by prescription and should not be shared with others. Anyone who wants to use PrEP should discuss their intention with a health provider,” said dr. Sarah Masyuko, the manager of the HIV Testing services and PrEP programme in NASCOP.