By DANN OKOTH
The US has committed to continue funding various initiatives on HIV prevention and treatment of Aids in Kenya and the rest of Africa. This has emerged as the World Aids Day, whose theme is Aids-free generation, is marked globally today.
The US Government has unveiled a new blueprint to fight global HIV and Aids.
The guideline gives funding scale-up for anti-retroviral treatments (ARTs).
Earlier indications were that funding might be cut to some developing countries due to inefficient utilisation of the funds and corruption.
Early this year, there was uncertainty in Kenya after it emerged that up to $500 million (Sh42 billion), enough to keep half a million people dying of Aids-related complications alive was lying unclaimed in the American Federal Reserve due to confusion in the Grand Coalition Government due to infighting between two ministries charged with health matters.
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By then, the backlog for developing countries had built up to an incredible $1 billion (Sh83 trillion) in unspent funds and the US Congress had warned it would cut future budgets because such a large amount was being delayed in the pipeline.
However, on Thursday the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton unveiled a new blueprint to guide the American government’s landmark global Aids initiative, President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR).
The blueprint highlights among other things increasing combination prevention and treatment, including prevention of mother-to-child transmission, treatment as prevention, voluntary male circumcision, and access to HIV testing and counseling. It also targets evidence-based interventions for populations at greater risk and promoting sustainability, efficiency and effectiveness of all interventions adding that science must continue to guide all efforts.
“One way of measuring progress toward an Aids-free generation, in a country or globally, is to compare the annual number of new HIV infections with the annual increase in new patients on treatment. By bringing this ratio below 1.0, through reduced infections and rapid treatment expansion, it is possible to achieve what many have called a programmatic “tipping point” in the epidemic,” says Mrs Clinton.
“In the blueprint, we used data from four countries that are at different stages of the response to assess the impact of various scenarios for intervention. What we found is that through robust scale-up, with support from all partners, it is possible for countries to get on the path toward achieving an Aids-free generation in the next three to five years. They can reach and move beyond that tipping point where the number of people newly on treatment exceeds the number of new infections,” she added.
It is estimated Kenya has 1.5 million people living with HIV. Only 500,000 are already receiving life-sustaining HIV treatment. Treatment coverage is even lower for children, currently standing at a 34 per cent of those in need. Kenya faces large gaps in treatment coverage to meet its national target of one million on ARVs by 2015 and the new development from US would be a big boost for the country.
“Pepfar’s blueprint has enormous potential to accelerate global HIV prevention efforts. It rightly emphasises that we need to ‘follow the science’ if we intend to deliver life-saving HIV prevention and treatment breakthroughs to millions of people worldwide,” says AVAC, a global Aids prevention initiative Executive director Mitchell Warren.
The blueprint also recognises that ending Aids will not be easy or quick. While current options have a tremendous impact, continued science and innovation are essential to ultimately halt new HIV infections.
It is estimated that Kenya has 1.5 million people living with HIV. Only 500,000 are already receiving life-sustaining HIV treatment. Treatment coverage is even lower for children, currently standing at a mere 34 per cent of those in need. Kenya faces large gaps in treatment coverage to meet its national target of one million on ARVs by 2015.
The AVAC report, which was launched in Nairobi yesterday notes that countries themselves must continue to increase national budgetary allocations to health and HIV and Aids.