Kenya’s Ministry of Health through the National AIDS and STI Control Programme (NASCOP) has officially launched guidelines on the use of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) and HIV self-testing.
This launch makes Kenya the second African country to nationally rollout guidelines on PrEP use after South Africa, and the first to roll these out on such a large scale.
According to the Kenya AIDS Indicator Survey (KAIS) 2012, 5.6% of Kenya’s population aged between 15 and 64 years were living with HIV, with a HIV incidence rate of 0.5%, which represented an estimated 106,000 new infections that year. Of the adolescents and adults in this age group, 71.3% had tested for HIV at least once and received a result.
“It has taken us about 10 years from when Kenya identified the need for HIV self-testing kits to this day when we officially roll them out,” said an excited Dr Sarah Masyuko, NASCOP’s Testing and PrEP Manager during the launch. She praised the efforts of the national and county governments, as well as partner organisations and the donor community for making the launch of the two products a reality.
PrEP is a form of HIV prevention where a HIV negative person takes antiretroviral medication to prevent HIV infection. This is administered orally through a once-a-day pill to reduce the chances of infection, especially among those at high risk of exposure such as sex workers, men who have sex with men and people who inject drugs.
Strategic goal one of the Kenya AIDS Strategic Framework (KASF) 2014/15 – 2018/2019 speaks to the reduction of new HIV infections among adults in the country by 75%. When offered as part of a combination of HIV prevention strategies, PrEP will form a key component in the reduction of new HIV infections among people facing substantial ongoing risk.
The roll out of PrEP will see government public hospitals begin to offer the service to their most-at-risk and most-at-need clients.
HIV self-testing is a process where a person collects his or her own sample, conducts an HIV test, and interprets their own results in an easy, safe and confidential manner.
Knowing one’s HIV status is important and self-testing now provides an opportunity for everyone to know their HIV status, especially those who suspect that they may have been exposed to infection.
There are two types of kits that have been approved by the Ministry of Health for purposes of self-testing, and are available in public and private health facilities, as well as in select pharmacies. The OraQuick kit uses oral fluid (saliva) for testing, while the Insti kit uses a blood sample for the same test. These kits can be purchased at an affordable cost of 850 and 950 Kenya shillings, repectively.
The roll-out of these self-testing kits and guidelines presents an innovative way for Kenya to reach the ambitious 90:90:90 targets set out by the United Nations. These kits will assist the country in achieving the first 90, which focuses on 90% of all people knowing their HIV status by 2020.
According to KAIS 2012, 72% of the survey respondents indicated their willingness to perform HIV self-testing when provided with the necessary equipment.
If a self-test turns positive, it is important that one has a confirmatory test done at the nearest health facility to confirm the status.
CHS Position on HIV Prevention and Testing
Knowledge of one’s HIV status is an important step that allows for informed choices about one’s health and lifestyle.
CHS encourages all Kenyans to know their status by either visiting their nearest health facility for HIV testing services or by purchasing a self-testing kit.
Testing positive is not the end; there are thousands of individuals currently living full lives despite their HIV status, many of whom have been living positively for over two decades thanks to modern medication and science.
Individuals with a negative result are encouraged to practise the ABC’s of safe sex – Abstain, Be faithful and use Condoms – especially among adolescents and young adults where the highest number of new HIV infections occur.
If you are an individual facing substantial ongoing risk of HIV infection, visit your nearest health facility and for advice on the use of PrEP and post exposure prophylaxis (PEP) to prevent you from acquiring HIV.