New Kenya project affirms commitment to AIDS treatment

The programme will enroll selected patients from Busia district for free. The enrolled patients have to live in Busia district and are selected along medical and social criteria. In addition, patients will have to prove strict adherence to the treatment protocol. With limited financial and human resources, the programme will focus on those patients who are most in risk of dying.
BUSIA, Kenya - Kenyan Health Minister Charity Ngilu is expected to travel to Busia today (August 6) to open a new anti-retroviral (ARV) programme for AIDS patients in the district. The new programme has been set up by the Ministry of Health in cooperation with the international humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).

Other speakers at the opening ceremony will be the Busia District Commissioner, the Busia District Medical Officer, the Mayor of Busia Township, the Busia hospital director, as well as the Head of Mission for MSF. A school drama group will perform a new educational drama piece that will be performed in schools to sensitize pupils about treatment for AIDS.

The ARV Treatment programme is part of the Kenya government's and MSF's stated commitment to increase the availability of ARV treatment to those AIDS patients who are in need of it. These drugs have proven successful in slowing down the effects of AIDS, sometimes to the extent of virtually taking away the effects of the disease.

After opening ARV treatment projects in collaboration with the Ministry of Health in Homa Bay and Nairobi earlier, MSF has now undertaken a similar ARV programme in Busia District. The district, that straddles the border between Kenya and Uganda, is estimated to have a high HIV/AIDS prevalence, with official figures varying between 22% (2000) and 34% (1999).

The programme will enroll selected patients from Busia district for free. The enrolled patients have to live in Busia district and are selected along medical and social criteria. In addition, patients will have to prove strict adherence to the treatment protocol. With limited financial and human resources, the programme will focus on those patients who are most in risk of dying.

Since 2000, MSF has run an HIV/AIDS programme in Busia. The organisation works in cooperation with the Ministry of Health in the District Hospital and with community organizations in Busia town. Prior to the new ARV-treatment programme, activities included the running of a VCT centre, treatment of opportunistic infections, home-based care for AIDS patients, prevention of mother-to-unborn-child infection, and education in schools as to prevention of HIV/AIDS.

During an MSF-organized symposium on ARV treatment in April this year in Nairobi, the Government publicly announced target figures for ARV treatment in Kenya, stating it would strive to treat 20% of the AIDS patients in need of ARV treatment by 2005, and 50-60% of those in need by 2008.

MSF believes that it is high time to speed up AIDS treatment in Africa, especially with ARVs. In rich countries, these drugs are available to all AIDS patients who need them, and their success has significantly enhanced the lives of these patients, and lowered the numbers of deaths due to AIDS. In Africa, where the proportions of the epidemic are much higher, widespread use of ARV treatment can make a huge difference.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), also known in Kenya as "Madaktari wasio na Mipaka" is a medical non-governmental organization that works worldwide to assist people in need of emergency medical assistance. MSF is active in over 80 countries where natural or man-made disasters like earthquakes or war have broken down existing health structures and where medical assistance is badly needed.