By John Eden.
Kenya becomes the second country in Africa after South Africa to embrace the Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, an intervention treatment programme for those at risk of HIV and aged 15 years and above.
The introduction of this treatment otherwise known as PrEP marks a major milestone in the country’s fight against the surge of new infections among the youth. In Kisumu Nyanza region where there is a high prevalence of 19.9 percent and the adjacent counties of Homa Bay and Siaya at 26 and 24.8 percent respectively, this measure has been applauded, with many residents viewing it as a step in the right direction in the fight and a positive measure in preventing new infections among the high risk groups such as commercial sex workers, teens who engage in sexual activities without protection and drug users who take intravenous jabs using shared unsterylized syringes.
Unlike the commonly used (PEP) which is administered after the exposure and in cases of rape incidences, the PrEP is taken before exposure to minimize the possible transmission of the virus from one person to another and recommended for the duration one feels at risk like discordant couples where one partner is positive and another negative, those engaging in transactional sex and health care workers who may in the course of discharging their duties come into contact with infected body fluids.
The drugs coats human cells thus preventing HIV virus from attaching to the cells. According to Dr Mark Sirengo who heads the National Aids and STI Control Programme (NASCOP), risk assessment criteria will be used in identifying those who qualify for PrEP. He further explains that the drugs will be prescribed by health caregivers after a thorough assessment of risks involved according to the national set guidelines.
Speaking during the unveiling of the Programme in Nairobi, the medic said that the beauty of PrEP is that it is highly effective and will be beneficial to individual who are enrolled. Those who choose to take PrEP should take the pill daily for the whole duration of 28 days while the drug becomes effective after 7days. Users are required to go for check ups on a regular basis and in addition to that, take HIV tests every 3months.
Dr Sirengo further emphasized the importance of PrEP to be combined with other forms of protection including condom use to further enhance the country’s fight against the HIV. “PrEP is as good as it is taken, and if taken daily during the period of risk, it is highly effective. We anticipate that PrEP will avert many new infections in Kenya” he said.
According to the Centres For Disease Control CDC ” PrEP has been shown to be able to reduce the risks by up to 92 percent when taken persistently.” Kenya is reported to have the fourth highest HIV burden in the world with an estimated 2.5 million said to be living with the virus.