Health workers access to anti-HIV medication low despite risk - report

Friday July 15 2016

HIV/Aids screening test during a past World Aids Day.  PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

An HIV/Aids screening test during a past World Aids Day. PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By EUNICE KILONZO
More by this Author

Healthcare workers are at high risk of contracting HIV and other blood-borne infections but do not access medication to prevent infections in good time or use them as required, a study says.

This means that more than 130,000 health workers — doctors, nurses and other medical personnel — are at risk of catching a virus that infects nearly 100, 000 Kenyans annually.

A survey titled “Report on Occupational Exposure to Blood/Body Fluids and HIV Post Exposure Prophylaxis in Health Care Facilities in Kenya (2011–2014)” shows that despite the risk of exposure, “access and adherence to post-exposure prophylaxis (to prevent HIV infection) was sub optimal amongst the health workers.”

The study, conducted in March 2015 by reviewing data from 2011 to 2014, notes: “Occupational exposure to blood or other body fluids in healthcare settings constitutes a small but significant risk of transmission of HIV and other blood-borne pathogens.”

The Ministry of Health is seeking to change this by preventing the infections “through strict infection prevention and control, universal precautions, use of safe devices, proper waste disposal, immunisation, and prompt management of exposures.”

HIV POLICY DOCUMENTS

These are some of the issues lined up for discussion Friday (July 15) in Nairobi during the launch of nearly seven policy documents on HIV management in the country.

These measures by the health ministry in collaboration with the National Aids and STIs Control Programme and the National Aids Control Council will look in depth at a disease that nearly 1.4 million Kenyans are living with.

One recommendation to stymie the spread of the disease is that all babies born by an HIV-positive mother will be tested at birth to ensure the children are not infected and if they are, put on treatment immediately.

Another is that people who are HIV-negative but are at “constant risk” of the virus can now take antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) to prevent HIV infection.

It is not yet clear, however, what criteria will be used to identify who is at the most risk and how long the ARVs will be administered.

Other documents to be launched include three handbooks for families with infected and affected children, a story book for the young infected child (less than nine years) about HIV in colourful graphics and simple text.

In addition, there will be a book for adolescents living with HIV on ways to live healthy, form positive relationships and avoid habits that could affect their health.