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New efforts to raise uptake of PrEP in war on HIVAids

 Kenya is facing challenges in delivering PrEP. [iStockphoto]

The Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri) has just concluded a study on how to increase the reach of HIV PrEP in Kenya using private pharmacies. The study, being the first of its kind in the country, is seeking ways to reduce and prevent the spread of HIV.

The department of Center for Microbiology Research (CMR) and Research Care and Training Programme (RCTP) led the project which was conducted for one and a half years.

The national HIV prevalence is at 4.2 per cent with a total of 1.4 million infected persons.

Kenya is facing challenges in delivering PrEP. Some of the hurdles are stigma associated with visiting HIV clinics, limited hours of operation, especially for workers, PrEP initiation and continuation at health care facilities, lack of privacy, long wait times, travel distance associated with overcrowding, multiple PrEP stops and limited PrEP clinics.

However, during the pharmacy PrEP pilot initiation and continuation process, KEMRI was able to achieve 58 per cent and 55 per cent of behaviours associated with HIV risks, respectively.

In an interview with a public health officer at Kemri Victor Omollo, he told The Standard that intensive interviews with PrEP users and providers were conducted in order to get views for effective delivery of the pre-exposure drugs. Omollo said a pilot study was done after the affirmative work to pilot and test the developed pathway whose success shall be determined between December and January.

Citing an example, he said if one visited a pharmacy to purchase HIV risk-indicative items, they were engaged and informed about prevention options on PrEP. Further, if one was found eligible and interested, the service provider could continue with counselling and give all the information about PrEP.

He further said the program had a remote clinician to offer oversight in the case of any technicalities or concerns by the private pharmacists.

"The remote clinicians were providing guidance on how the pharmacy provider is supposed to go about a particular client or concern," said Omollo.

According to Kemri study coordinator for HIV performance Benn Kwach, the idea of PrEP delivery and how people can best access the product was conceived in 2020. It is through the idea that the question of HIV self-testing came about while measuring the performance of HIV self-kits (HIVST).

The overall objective of this study was to measure the performance of BB HIVST in retail pharmacies to support its use as a diagnostic tool in the communities the PrEP was delivered, including pharmacy-based PrEP delivery.

Kemri approached 20 pharmacies within Kisumu to measure the performance of the kits around the region.

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