Kisumu County set on reducing new HIV infections

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By ANGELA OKETCH
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The Kisumu County government has rolled out a new drug meant to protect HIV-negative people from contracting the virus.

Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) will be given free of charge to anyone at risk of contracting HIV but distribution will be based on Ministry of Health guidelines.

HIV prevalence in Kisumu is 3.4 times higher than the national rate at 20 per cent, according to Kenya HIV Estimates 2015.

The county contributed to 9.5 per cent of the number of people living with HIV in Kenya and is ranked the third highest nationally.

Young people aged 15-24 years comprised 22 per cent of the 144,303 people living with HIV in the county by the end of 2015 with children under 15 forming 6 per cent.

The County Health Executive, Dr Elizabeth Ogaja, said Kisumu was committed to realising change using PrEP as all the pilot studies on its efficacy were conducted there.

The studies showed the drug can prevent HIV infection by more than 96 per cent.

“Many people in Kenya look at this as a new intervention but, for us in Kisumu, it is not new because the studies were conducted here,” said Dr Ogaja.

“This is a local study which has proven that it can work. It was done by our population and so we need to escalate it.”

She said PrEP puts the power of prevention in the hands of vulnerable people.

Dr Ogaja said the only worry would be how to use the drug and ensuring that the combination system works.

“PreP should be used together with other interventions, including HIV testing and counselling and consistent and correct condom use,” said Dr Ogaja at Acacia Hotel in Kisumu Town on Tuesday.

“The drug should be taken daily for the risky people but can be discontinued and reinitiated as long as the client is safe,” said Dr Ogaja.

Family Aids Care and Education Services (Faces) director Patrick Oyaro warned: ” But even with all the interventions, without behaviour change, HIV is here to stay.”

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