By Elizabeth Merab*
The Kenyan government will next month roll out a new drug meant to protect HIV-negative people from contracting the virus.
The drug, known as Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) will be given to those at high risk of contracting the virus before being made accessible to the rest of the population.
This is after pilot studies conducted in Kenya and Uganda showed that if taken once daily, the drugs can prevent HIV infection by more than 96 per cent.
The drug is taken before exposure to risk of infection. To build adequate protection, people will need to take one pill daily for seven days.
The targeted population for the roll-out include discordant couples, where the HIV-negative partner can be put on the drug, people with multiple sexual partners, individuals who have had sexually transmitted infections (STIs), people who inject drugs, people who have had recurrent use of post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), sex workers and those who do not use condoms consistently.
Speaking while announcing the roll-out, the head of National AIDS and STI Control Program Dr Martin Sirengo said the drug has been included in the current HIV prevention methods.
“If you have decided to use PrEP, you must complement it with other methods of protection such as condom use, HIV testing and counselling and voluntary medical male circumcision for men,” said Dr Sirengo.
He however noted that although the drug will also be available to anybody who wishes to use it, they will need to be assessed by a healthcare provider before being given the prescription only medicine.
In 2016, the government introduced PrEP, becoming the second country in sub-Saharan Africa after South Africa to issue full regulatory approval of the method, which uses antiretroviral drugs to protect HIV-negative people from getting infected.
Following research and demonstration projects, which showed that the drug reduces the risk of HIV infection with up to 96 per cent, the drug was incorporated into the country’s HIV prevention roadmap as the most recent strategic framework.