Kenya/ART: Battling the national catastrophe

Triple therapy is now one Euro a day but even that is still too expensive for many.

Evey day 500 people die of AIDS in Kenya - AIDS was declared a national catastrophe in 1999, and it is estimated that 2.2 million people are infected (13% of the population). Around 3,000 people receive ARVs in Kenya, mostly in the private sector, where they pay for their medicines.

Following a long legal battle, it is now possible to import generic ARVs into Kenya. But the Ministry of Health has been slow in registering generics, which limits the possibilities of use. Thanks to generics, the cost of triple therapy is now 1 Euro a day, at least 40% less than the cost of treatment with brand name drugs. One Euro a day is still too expensive for many, but would at least enable many more people to have access to ARVs.

MSF has been working in Homa Bay hospital in the Nyanza province since 1996. Nyanza province is particularly badly affected by the disease - and estimated 35% of the population there is HIV-positive.

In November 2001, after months of negotiation with the Ministry of Health, MSF was able to provide free triple therapy for patients with a CD4 count below 200/mm3. MSF also offers free voluntary testing and counselling (VCT) services, medical care and treatment for tuberculosis.

At the end of October 2002, 240 people (of which 20 children) had started triple therapy in the MSF programme. MSF is now trying to convince its partners to start up similar projects.