Aids to lose ‘special status’ in new plan

Wednesday March 9 2011

Demonstrators march on July 20, 2010 as part of the 18th International AIDS Conference. Photo/FILE

Demonstrators march on July 20, 2010 as part of the 18th International AIDS Conference. Photo/FILE 

By ISAIAH ESIPISU [email protected]

The government has taken the first steps to strip Aids of its special status and start treating it like any other chronic medical condition.

According to a senior programme officer with the National Aids/STD Control Programme, Dr Martin Sirengo, this will level the ground for other diseases which are equally critical.

“HIV is no longer a big issue. It is just like any other disease because we now have the knowledge about it, we have the drugs, and nearly everybody knows about it,” Dr Sirengo said.

The country is in the process of implementing a disease integration model that will eventually do away with emergency response to HIV/Aids and address it like any other chronic disease.

According to Dr Sirengo, the integration is underway, and by next year, most public health facilities will no longer give Aids special status.

This will see the demise of special rooms set aside for voluntary counselling and testing at health centres or even special pharmacies for HIV cases.

“All these services will be offered in the same room with other medical conditions,” Dr Sirengo said.

These may be the first steps that could eventually lead to the dismantling of parallel, but expensive administrative structures set up to manage the pandemic.

However, this could meet strong resistance from hundreds of non-governmental organisations and specialist government agencies benefiting from billions in Aids funding.

However, Dr Sirengo says that specialist skills will still be needed to manage the syndrome.

With support from donors, Kakamega Provincial General Hospital is the first public health facility in the country to start implementing the integration service approach.

“Other hospitals where we are already piloting such services include the Nakuru Provincial General Hospital, Kilifi District Hospital and Machakos District Hospital,” Dr Sirengo said.

Four public health facilities in western Kenya have moved a notch higher to integrate HIV treatment with outpatient services.