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State teams up with pharmacists to get 400,000 Kenyans tested for HIV

The government will work with 4,000 pharmacists to drive self-testing of HIV among Kenyans.

The partnership between National Aids & STI Control Programme (NASCOP) and the Pharmaceutical Society of Kenya was announced at the society’s annual scientific conference.

The two organisations also rolled out a nation-wide sensitisation campaign for self-testing through the more than 4,000 registered pharmacists across the country.

The programme will establish the community pharmacy as a primary healthcare center to support government efforts to fight HIV/Aids.

PSK president Dr Paul Mwaniki said pharmacists were collaborating with government and partners to enhance self-testing to reach nearly eight million Kenyans estimated not to have ever tested for HIV, among them 1.8 million adults.

The partners include the Pharmacy and Poisons Board and the Clinton Foundation.

“About 400,000 Kenyans with HIV do not know they are infected and do not therefore access treatment and care,” said Dr Mwaniki.

He said 40 per cent Kenyans access healthcare through the private sector but noted pharmacists would reach more Kenyans with the self-testing kits as well as the pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) drugs, launched by the government on May 4.

“HIV testing is routine in the public sector but is not routinely available in the private sector,” he said. “Now HIV test kits are now available for use by persons without medical training. The kits are safe, accurate and easy to use.”

A single use disposable kit will cost at least Sh750 and four brands have already been approved for use in Kenya by the Ministry of Health.

The HIV self-test kits programme is expected to contribute to ending the HIV epidemic by helping to reach the UNAIDS 90:90:90 target of having 90 per cent people to know their status, 90 per cent of those infected on treatment and another 90 per cent of the latter group reaching viral suppression when they cannot spread the virus.

“The focus is on adults knwoing their status. If positive, they will be linked to treatment and care,” he said.

For those at significant risk, PrEP is offered as an additional tool to prevent HIV infection. The community pharmacy will identify individuals at risk and link them to PrEP services.

Kenya is the second country in Africa after South Africa to launch self-testing for HIV as a means of empowering its citizens to fight HIV.

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