HIV/AIDS prevalence down to seven percent, says gov't

KENYA: HIV/AIDS prevalence down to seven percent, says gov't

NAIROBI, 1 Dec 2004 (PLUSNEWS) - The national HIV/AIDS prevalence rate in Kenya has dropped from 14 percent four years ago to about seven percent and the level of public awareness of the disease has risen to an estimated 90 percent across the country, the government said on Wednesday.

"HIV/AIDS is now an established epidemic in Kenya," a statement issued by the Ministry of Health to mark World AIDS Day 2004, said. "It is a declared national disaster and all efforts are being directed to evoking the necessary response to containing it."

About 10 percent of reported HIV/AIDS cases, the statement noted, occurred in children five years of age or under, mostly due to mother-child transmission of HIV. Some 200,000 infants and children were living with the virus across the country, it added.

As part of national efforts to contain the epidemic, Kenya has set up national institutions and local committees in communities, and is working on a new strategic plan for 2006-2010 to continue the fight against HIV/AIDS, especially among women and girls.

"In Kenya, the number of infected women is twice that of men," Prof Miriam Were, chairperson of the National AIDS Control Council said in a separate statement. "To make it worse, in the group aged 15 to 24 years, the number of infected young women is four times that of young men."

In September, Kenya announced that a local pharmaceutical company would soon start manufacturing and selling generic versions of antiretroviral (ARV) medication in a move to make the drugs considerably cheaper for HIV-positive people across the East African region.

An international pharmaceutical firm, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), said it had licensed Cosmos Pharmaceuticals Limited to make ARVs containing Zidovudine and Lamivudine. The medicines would be marketed in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi. GSK holds patents on both drugs.

Cosmos would be able to produce generic versions of Zidovudine, currently sold by GSK as Retrovir, Lamivudine (Epivir) and the combination of the two drugs known as Combivir. This, the government added, would push the monthly cost of treatment down from about US $46 to $33.

The government plans to provide ARVs to 181,000 people living with HIV/AIDS by 2005. The number of beneficiaries would rise to 250,000 by 2010. An estimated 1.5 million Kenyans have died of AIDS-related illnesses since 1984, while there are roughly 1.8 million orphans in the country.


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