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52 Kenyans set for Aids treatment study

NAIROBI, Kenya, May 16 – At least 52 Kenyans will take part in an inaugural study on appropriate 2nd line treatment for persons living with HIV/AIDS in Africa.

The Kenyans would be among 1200 Africans recruited to be part of the study to be carried out by the Europe-Africa Research Network for Evaluation of Second Line Therapy (EARNEST).

The 2nd line treatment is used on patients when the first regime fails to work or develops resistance mainly due to poor drug adherence.

"The estimated percentage of Kenyans on Antiretroviral therapy who fail 1st line therapy and should be on 2nd line drugs could be as high as 10 percent," said Dr Abraham Siika, who is leading the Kenyan study.

Antiretroviral therapy is administered on three levels (regimes) or drug combinations, 1st line drugs, 2nd line drugs and when both regimes fail, the patients are put on 3rd line/salvage therapy.

EARNEST is the world\’s largest clinical trial investigating the best treatment options for individuals whose first line combination of antiretroviral medicines is no longer working.

Dr Siika said that the aim of the trial was to find out whether a new antiretroviral drug called Isentress (raltegravir) could be combined with the standard antiretroviral called Alluvia (lopinavir/ritonavir) to benefit people who needed to change their treatment.

He said findings from the clinical trial would help in early identification and later curb antiretroviral therapy failure among persons living with HIV.

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"From the trial, we will know the 2nd line treatment that is best for us (Africans)," the lead doctor said.

"We have been relying on regimes from the western countries which are limited and don\’t leave us with many choices for administration," he added.

He said that the drugs which would be used in the experiment were less expensive and easily available.

While administering 2nd line therapy is successful in high-income countries, most African countries lag behind because drug resistance testing is not routinely performed.

3rd line treatment or salvage therapy as is commonly referred to is very expensive and barely available which means that persons living with HIV/AIDS must strictly remain within the 1st line or 2nd line regimes.

The study would take place at AMPATH clinics in Eldoret and is funded by the European Union.

The participants will be closely monitored through monthly clinic visits to assure their safety and well-being.

Preliminary findings will be released in 2013.

Other partners in the study are with the UK Medical Research Council, the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Belgium, the Istituto Superiore di Sanita and CINECA in Italy, the Hospital La Paz in Spain and the University College Dublin in Ireland.

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