The government will give antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) to all people living with HIV and Aids regardless of their CD4 count if a pilot study yields positive results.
This means that an estimated 1.2 million people in Kenya living with HIV and Aids will benefit from the programme. Currently 540,000 people benefit from government-distributed anti-retroviral treatment.
Director of Public Health Shanaz Sherrif says the roll-out of medication to all HIV patients will begin after the completion of a test study to confirm the positive effects of beginning ARVs in the early stages of infection.
“We hope to move to a situation where all those infected will be able to enrol for the ARVs because there are indications that there are benefits that come with the “strategic use” of HIV medicines that could help end transmission,” Dr Sherrif said.
In an interview with the Sunday Nation, he explained that there were indications that early use of anti-retroviral medication could significantly reduce the transmission of the virus.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) presented a proposal at the ongoing International Aids Conference in Washington, DC, giving evidence that the same medicine used to save lives and keep people healthy can also stop people from transmitting the virus.
The move is reinforced by a multi-country study by the HIV Prevention Trials Network last year that showed that ARVs cut transmission of HIV by 96 per cent among discordant couples.
According to Dr Gottfried Hirnschall, Director of the HIV Department at WHO, when people take ARVs, the quantity of the virus in their body is reduced, making them much less likely to pass it on to others.
“If we can get and keep more people on treatment and reduce their virus levels, we can reduce the number of new people who are infected,” he said his a recent press release.
Based on the new evidence, WHO plans to recommend the use of ARVs by those with uninfected partners regardless of the strength of their immune system, to reduce the likelihood of HIV transmission.