Govt promises expansion of free ARVs

KENYA: Govt promises expansion of free ARVs

NAIROBI, 4 May 2005 (PLUSNEWS) - Kenya's government has promised to make antiretroviral (ARVs) drugs freely available to its HIV-positive citizens, many of whom cannot afford the current subsidised medication.

Of the 200,000 people in need of treatment in the country, only 35,000 are receiving the life-prolonging drugs. With more than 60 percent of the population living on a dollar a day, HIV-positive Kenyans can expect to pay about KShs500 (US $6.5) per month for ARVs.

According to health minister Charity Ngilu, the government hopes to put 95,000 people on free treatment by end of this year and increase the number to 140,000 by 2006.

"Soon I will present a cabinet paper in parliament to allow us to give ARVs that we have for free," she said.

Ngilu was speaking during this week's launch by international development agency ActionAid of a world wide campaign to mobilise the G8 leaders at the upcoming meeting in Scotland, to increase funding to Africa.

Launching the 'Get on Board' initiative in Kenya, President Mwai Kibaki urged developed countries to make resources available to expand prevention of mother-to-child transmission, scale up availability of ARVs and train more medical personnel and counsellors.

"These nations must know that debt repayment and a skewed global trading system are taking away opportunities for economic growth and entrenching poverty on the Africa continent ... Poverty makes it difficult to fight HIV and AIDS," said Kibaki.

Coordinator of the National Empowerment Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS in Kenya, Inviolata Mwali Mmbwavi, said: "We feel it is immoral, insensitive, inhuman and ironical for the rich countries to continue arm twisting developing countries to pay debts at the expense of even unborn babies."

Developing nations "cannot raise and spend additional resources to scale up the fight against HIV and AIDS for fear of violating the agreed loan conditions on the fiscal deficit as well as the current sector budget ceiling and expenditure plans", said Mmbwavi.

Ramesh Singh, chief executive officer of ActionAid International, said the 'Get on Board' campaign is meant to highlight failed government commitments to curb the spread of the pandemic and mobilise for more resources for poorer countries - particularly women and children.


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