, NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 4 – Kenyans who are most at risk of contracting HIV/AIDS might soon have to start taking anti-HIV drugs if a trial being conducted by the government is successful.
Kenya Medical Research Institute Deputy Director Elizabeth Bukusi told journalists attending a training session with the Internews Network on Thursday that the government had already started the studies in Thika and would soon kick off another in Kisumu.
She noted that the drugs, which are normally given to individuals who have been sexually assaulted, could help the country reduce its prevalence rate if Kenyans also continued using condoms.
Health workers who are exposed to HIV at their workplace are also normally placed on Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP).
“When we do research within a clinical set up, we can show that it works because we are able to follow up. But we need to know how it works in a real life set up. Will people adhere? Are they willing to go on treatment?” she posed.
Bukusi further explained that the National AIDS and STI Control Programme, which is carrying out the test, was still grappling with the question on individuals who should be placed on PEP including discordant couples.
‘It’s a policy decision and we have just completed the Kenya AIDS Indicator Survey that is going to tell us where the risks are highest so that we put as many eggs as we can in the basket that is most important,” she said.
However a recent study conducted on 5,007 unmarried African women between the ages of 18 and 25 found that an anti-HIV oral tablet or vaginal gel was not the best approach to preventing the transmission of HIV.
Bukusi however explained that a lack of adherence from the participants of the study was largely to be blamed.
She also noted a need to increase financial support in preventative measures noting that Kenyans were still not very faithful to condom use.
“We need to combine all the best methodologies but we can’t give up and there is hope,” she argued.
Bukusi further said that the country’s prevalence rate stood between 6.3 percent and 6.7 percent with Suba district having the highest prevalence rate.
She however explained that cultural activities in Suba in addition to its remoteness were largely to blame for its gloomy statistics.
“The challenge in Suba is that young women are getting infected earlier than expected; by the time they get to 18, they are already infected,” she said.
“One of the features that stood out to me was that of a 16 year old lady, with two children and already HIV positive. She hasn’t even had a chance to enjoy her childhood.”
Bukusi further reminded Kenyans against assuming that circumcision would protect them from contracting the virus.
“It is not a magical bullet; we are talking about reduced risk. A seat belt will protect you if you have an accident but it will not stop you from having an accident,” she quipped.