HIV/AIDS treatment in Kenya

In 2003 only 5 percent of people needing ART were receiving antiretroviral therapy. In 2006 Kenya’s President announced that antiretroviral drugs would be provided for free in public hospitals and health centres. In 2007 treatment coverage was low at 42 percent with only 172,000 on treatment. Nevertheless, by 2009 the number of people receiving antiretroviral therapy had significantly increased to 336,980. However, due to a 2010 change in WHO treatment guidelines, which recommend starting treatment earlier, the proportion of people eligible to receive antiretroviral treatment remained at only 48 percent. Under the previous guidelines, treatment coverage would have been 65 percent. By 2010, access to treatment had increased further with 432,621 receiving treatment, around 61 percent of those in need.
Due to the expansion of treatment, the number of people that have died from AIDS has declined since its peak in 2003. In 2011 a Kenyan pharmaceutical company was given the green light by the WHO to start producing antiretroviral drugs. This could result in significant savings for the government’s treatment programme, as ARVs currently have to be imported from India.
Around half of those infected with tuberculosis (TB) are co-infected with HIV in Kenya, although this varies widely according to region. Antiretroviral treatment for co-infected individuals has been found to improve patient survival if it is administered as soon as possible after TB treatment. Therefore, WHO recommend antiretroviral therapy for all HIV and TB co-infected patients, whatever the stage of HIV progression. However, facilities where dual treatment is available are limited and many of those who require ARVs alongside TB treatment are not receiving it.
Despite an increase in access to HIV treatment for children, the overall coverage for children remains extremely low. Of those receiving treatment, most are adults with 74 percent of adults in need of treatment receiving it. In contrast only 21 percent of children living with HIV in need of treatment are receiving it. A child’s access to treatment can sometimes be inhibited by reasons other than the reach of treatment services. According to Human Rights Watch reasons for this include: neglect on part of the children’s caregivers; a lack of accurate information about medical care for children; and the stigma and guilt associated with HIV and AIDS.

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