While microbicide researchers are upbeat about the progress of the trials, Kenyan women who are expected to volunteer for such research say they are unwilling to do so because they have little knowledge about it.
Although antiretroviral drugs have been used and are being used to treat people who are already infected with HIV, in some cases they have also been used to help a person’s immune system prevent the HIV virus from being established in their body in cases such as rape as post- exposure prophylaxis (PEP).
This fairly new school of thought in which any person can take an ARV pill daily if they anticipate risky sexual behaviour that may make them vulnerable to HIV infection raises very critical issues,
“Why give an ARV pill daily or in whatever doses to reduce HIV infections while other models of prevention have been proven to work?” poses Dr John Ong’ech, a gynaecologist and HIV specialist in Nairobi. He adds: “We have the ABC (Abstain, Be faithful and or use a Condom) and Prevention of Mother to Child (PMTCT) among others.”
In 1999 when James Onyango walked into his doctor’s clinic and was told that he might have to start taking antiretroviral drugs, he knew he was a dead man. Earning a modest salary, it was not going to be possible for him to raise over Sh 60,000 required for a monthly dose of the drugs.
He left the doctor’s place heartbroken, having resigned to fate. Death for him was just around the corner.
Government officials might be presenting to the public a very successful HIV treatment programme, but it is now emerging that they are finding it difficult to cope with the increasing number of people coming onto to the treatment program.
Senior government officials confided that they are unable to offer steady supply of antiretroviral drugs to those who need them as the numbers are overwhelming.
A tussle over the control of resources, overlapping tasks, anda budget that did not match with the activities, might have cost the country the much needed Global Fund money for the purchase of the life prolonging anti-retro viral drugs.
The country’s appeal to the Global Fund for HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria for Round 9 funds totalling 73 million for HIV/AIDS programmes was rejected, sending the country into a serious funding crisis for its ARV programme.
The government is putting on a brave face over reports that it has lost significant financing from the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria but behind the scenes is a picture of growing unease.
In a dossier prepared by a team of technical experts and presented to senior officials in the ministries of health and finance, the future of ARV treatment hangs in the balance unless the government comes to bridge a huge gap or scouts for new donors.
Scientists are following with keen interest an HIV positive pregnant woman who has managed to control the amount of the virus in her body at undetectable levels for the past nine years without being on drugs.
Now four months pregnant, doctors want to see if she can deliver an HIV negative baby without using ARVs or caesarean section, the key interventions used to significantly cut-down the chances of the mother transmitting the virus to her unborn baby.
HIV infection among youth who listen to sexually explicit and vulgar music is potentially high. Experts have warned youths who listen to such music are at a high risk of infection.
Recent studies conducted by an organisation known as Support for Addictions Prevention and Treatment in Africa (SAPTA), shows the magnitude of the problem. “We have done the studies and found that there is a direct correlation between vulgar music, alcohol or drug addiction and HIV infection. Our studies based on interviews of young people as we counsel them prove otherwise,” says Mr William Sinkele, SAPTA’s Executive Director.
National Aids Control Council (NACC) wants the Government to increase funding for HIV treatment now that some main donors have expressed intention to pull out.
The Central Kenya NACC regional monitoring and evaluation officer, James Kiiru, said that there will be an increase in Aids related deaths if the funding is not sustained.
The Clinton HIV/Aids Initiative, which has been a main donor in the fight against the disease, recently said that it will discontinue its support for paediatric antiretroviral drugs.
“The country faces a serious sustainability problem and we are asking the government to put up a trust fund,” said Kiiru.
NACC says that the government contributes 13 per cent towards the fight against HIV, while donors contribute 87 per cent. Future funding for HIV/Aids response is now becoming increasingly uncertain. Funding.
Speaking during a seminar in a Nyeri hotel, Kiiru said that other terminal diseases, like cancer, are funded by the ministry of health, but HIV has mainly been sponsored by donors.
“HIV treatment costs the patients KSh200,000 per month, which most Kenyans cannot afford as donors change priorities,” he said.
The council wants the Government to set aside one per cent of its annual budget towards the establishment of an Aids Trust Fund.
Kiiru said the trust fund will address the financial gaps that will be left when donors stop sponsoring the HIV programmes.
The council is lobbying MPs to pass the Kenya National Aids Commission Bill, 2012, to convert it and make it independent.
The Parliamentary Committee on Health has put the bill on its agenda, and the council legal officer, Charles Kariuki, said that passing the bill will strengthen the NACC.
He said the commission will have a wider mandate and will be able to hold organisations involved in the fight against HIV accountable.
“We depend on information presented to us by organisations involved in the fight against HIV, and sometimes the information is not enough,” said Kariuki. He said the commission will be able to get waivers on ARVs, adding that it will be easier to import the drugs. Kariuki said the council, which was established by a legal notice, can be disbanded by the president, but the commission will be independent.
“This means the commission will be independent and will have legal powers, unlike today when it just has responsibilities without power,” he added.
There are 1.2 million Kenyans living with HIV. Almost half of them are married couples, and 81 per cent of the infected do not know their status.