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Experts raise concerns over high HIV treatment failure in Kenya

By Gatonye Gathura | Published Tue, June 6th 2017 at 00:00, Updated June 5th 2017 at 21:18 GMT +3


Local and international health authorities are concerned about emerging evidence of high HIV treatment failure in Kenya.

The latest findings in a report by the Ministry of Health and the UN published last week spoke of "unacceptably" high failure rates of Anti-retrovirals (ARVs) among refugees and residents of Kakuma in northern Kenya.

The report told of drug resistance rates of up to 64 per cent among refugees and the host community in Kakuma.

In April, another survey involving the Ministry of Health reported the emergence of a drug-resistant strain of HIV in Kenya that resisted all available first and second line medicines.

The Kakuma report has been prepared by the Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri), the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the World Health Organization and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK.

The report suggests the high levels of treatment failure among the refugees and the local communities may be due to poor drug adherence.

"We found unacceptably low proportions of viral suppression within the refugees and host communities," said the study.

Although there is still no cure for HIV and Aids, ARVs are meant to reduce the amount of the Aids causing virus in the patient, otherwise called viral suppression.

Study results

In the case of Kakuma, the study found that while patients were indicated to be on treatment, the amount of virus in their blood remained unacceptably high.

"This suggests that drug resistance may be a serious problem within this population," says the study published in the Conflict and Health journal of BioMed Central.

This may be just the tip of the iceberg in an unfolding crisis that shows high HIV drug failure across the country.

In April, the National Aids and STIs Control Programme (Nascop) working with the University of Amsterdam, Kemri and the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention studied a group of HIV and Aids patients who did not respond to ARVs.

"Nearly one in four patients in Kenya failing second-line treatment has completely exhausted the available ARVs," stated the study.