, VIENNA, Austria, Jul 21 – Kenya has expressed confidence in the various researches on HIV prevention whose results have been announced at the ongoing International AIDS conference in Austria.
National Aids Control Council Director Alloys Orago told Capital News in Vienna that the new findings would heavily boost behavioural change messages as well as scale up prevention strategies.
“But the acceptability of these new strategies especially in a country like Kenya will depend on advocacy,” Professor Orago said.
“The challenge is the myths which hinder acceptability but if much more advocacy is done, it should be acceptable especially because women carry the heaviest burden of disease in Kenya,” he added.
Two research findings on vaccines and microbicides have been presented at the international conference raising optimism that the world could be edging closer to a HIV/AIDS breakthrough.
A two-and-a-half years study on the use of microbicides by women indicated a near 40 percent effectiveness in reducing a woman’s risk of becoming infected with HIV from a male partner.
“The microbicide trial is good but it included a small number of people. The interest now would be to try and increase that number and if it is found to work as much it will be a welcome weapon in prevention particularly given that it works very well with women,” Professor Orago said.
Another study on prevention vaccine conducted in Thailand showed at least 31 percent efficacy at reducing the rate of HIV infection.
“I don’t see a vaccine coming up in less than five years but also there wouldn’t be immediate success even if a vaccine was rolled out today,” he said.
A member of the Parliamentary Health Committee Dr David Simiyu told Capital News that the government should ensure Kenyans benefit from such findings as soon as they are found authentic and programmes rolled out.
“These are initial results. Like the use of microbicides by women to prevent HIV is a very good finding and I think we need to follow it up closely and ensure that when it is ready to be rolled out, our citizens also benefit from the latest cutting edge results,” he said.
“HIV is not something that we want to wait about, we have waited long enough to the extent where some villages have virtually been wiped out and unless we do something about it then the load on national resources will be too high,” the Legislator added.
He said there was need to re-energise the political will on HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care and also stop over reliance on donor funding.
“Right now it seems to be on the back banner and I think we need to bite the bullet and realise that while we are playing politics, Kenyans are dying and we need to cut out politics and just focus on where the problem is,” he stated.
“We have a problem of lack of focus and a memory like that of a warthog where we deal with something briefly and then forget and start dealing with something else and this needs to stop.”
In the 2010/2011 financial budget, Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta doubled government’s contribution to the HIV kitty to Sh1 billion.
Meanwhile, the National AIDS and STI Control Programme (NASCOP) said Kenya was set to roll out treatment of persons living with HIV as per the new World Health Organisation specifications of starting treatment at a CD4 count of 350.
Speaking to Capital News in Vienna, NASCOP Head, Dr Ibrahim Mohammed however said this would pose a challenge in financing of an additional new 300,000 patients who would now require treatment.
“What we are learning from this conference is that there is need to treat as early as possible as well as have proper financing for treatment to succeed,” Dr Mohammed said.
He said currently there were 360,000 patients on treatment up from 11,000 in 2003 but 44 percent of persons living with HIV requiring treatment still did not access it.
But he cautioned that if the country failed to get round ten of the funds, it would pose a major challenge to the treatment programme.
“But we are confident that the mistakes we made previously have been addressed and are hopeful that we will get,” he said.