, NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 30 – The Ministry of Health through the National AIDS and STI Control Programme (NASCOP) has launched new guidelines aimed at expanding HIV treatment and prevention efforts to reduce new infections, as well as improve the quality of life for persons living with HIV.
Cabinet Secretary for Health, Sicily Kariuki in a recent speech noted that the launch is a significant step for Kenya, which has been making steady but slow progress towards the ambitious and inspiring goal to eliminate HIV by 2030.
“The Government of Kenya is committed to working with stakeholders to reach our goal of zero new HIV infections; zero AIDS related deaths and zero stigma and discrimination by 2030. As you know, we are also working tirelessly to ensure access to quality universal health for all by 2022 and HIV prevention and control is squarely in this agenda,” said CS Kariuki.
In the Kenya Aids Response Progressive Report 2015, some 78,000 Kenyans were infected with HIV. Thirty per cent of new infections were within high-risk populations, such as commercial sex workers or men who have sex with men.
However, 20 per cent were from a population that is not traditionally considered high-risk – young women aged 15 to 24.
Young women are often unable to use traditional methods of HIV prevention (e.g., condoms, abstinence) and have seen increasing rates of HIV infection across the continent.
New HIV prevention options that women and girls can control, including HIV self-testing and oral PrEP, bring a new hope that can be used to reverse those trends.
HIV prevalence among sex workers, men having sex with fellow men and people who inject themselves with drugs was recorded at 29.3, 18.2 and 18.3 per cent respectively.
The report however noted a sharp decline in sexual transmissions where new infections declined by 32 per cent. Mother-to-child infections also reduced by a significant 50 percent, an achievement attributed to access to medical services by expectant and lactating mothers.
The ‘2018 Guidelines on the Use of Antiretroviral Drugs for Treating and Preventing HIV in Kenya’ recommend implementation of innovative testing approaches and introduce highly effective antiretroviral drugs for HIV treatment.
These new guidelines include expanding HIV testing through self-testing and assisted partner notification services with the hope of helping more people know their HIV status.
More importantly, the new guidelines now recommend use of safer and more effective antiretroviral medicines that will not only help persons living with HIV live better quality lives due to less side effects, but also rapidly helps them suppress the virus.
“We have been careful to take into consideration the needs of various populations, including women, who form majority of those on HIV treatment in developing these guidelines and have engaged a diverse group of stakeholders to discuss existing global and local evidence in developing these guidelines,” The Director of Medical Services Jackson Kioko said.
Director of NEPHAK Nelson Otwoma, also emphasised the need for continued dialogue among all stakeholders and called on clinicians to take up the responsibility of educating their patients especially women to make the right choice for their HIV treatment.
Alongside the updated 2018 HIV treatment guidelines, two other documents were also launched – the ‘Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision (VMMC) Tetanus Toxoid Containing Vaccine (TTCV) Guideline’ and ‘Early Infant Male Circumcision (EIMC) Training Documents’.
The VMMC, TTCV Guideline’ seeks to prevent tetanus infections during medical male circumcisions, while the EIMC Training Manual will be useful in equipping health care workers with vital skills needed to carry out circumcision procedures in infants.
“These guidelines will improve timely diagnosis, reduce unnecessary HIV-related illness, death, improve quality of life of people living with HIV and contribute to the reduction of new HIV infections,” said CS Kariuki.