Kenya is set to be the first African country to introduce better HIV treatment for people living with the disease that causes AIDS. In partnership with the Kenyan government, UNITAID and the World Health Organization have introduced a generic first-line drug for people living with HIV.

Kenya's New HIV Treatment Offers Hope for Patients

Speaking at a news conference in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, Dr. Peter Kimuu, the head of health policy and planning at the Ministry of Health, said this new first-line drug, known as Dolutegravir (DTG), has few side effects and patients living with HIV are less likely to develop resistance.

“DTG offers better tolerability, fewer adverse drug reactions, fewer drug to drug interactions and higher genetic barrier to resistance,” he said.


One of the key partners in the initiative is UNITAID, a global health initiative working to end Tuberculosis, Malaria and HIV/AIDS epidemic.

UNITAID donated approximately 148,000 bottles of DTG to Kenya’s Health Ministry, which will cover about one percent of the patients living with HIV in the country.

Robert Matiru, the director of operations at UNITAID, told VOA the economic and health benefits of the new line of treatment will go a long way in ensuring key populations get much needed treatment.

“When you bring a product that is cheaper to make, that is of higher efficacy, meaning better treatment outcomes of course you’re going to realize saving and savings are so critical in this day and age because as we know funding is constrained and in some cases declining,” he said.

According to Kenya’s Health Ministry about one-and-a-half million people are living with HIV. The introduction of the new generic first-line drug will be an added arsenal in the fight against the scourge.

Speaking to VOA at the launch of the new drug, Dr. Martin Sirengo, the head of the National Aids & STI control Programme (NASCOP), was upbeat about the new line of treatment. However, he says challenges still exist.

“We have a challenge in the sense that DTG is not available commercially to the scale that we can start everyone on it," he said. "It’s a new drug so the manufacturing is yet to catch up that’s why we are starting small, number two we have moved the treatment from where we used to combine different pills into a regiment into what we call a fixed dose combination pill, which is basically a tablet containing three drugs. DTG is a single drug so we have to formulate the regiment with other two drugs.”

Living with HIV

Daugthie Ogutu, the executive director at African Sex Workers Alliance, an organization that addresses human and health rights violations against sex workers, has been living with HIV for the last fifteen years.

Ogutu has been on Dolutegravir (DTG) for three months. She says the difference between this new line of treatment, compared to the old one, is the diminished side effects that go along with taking the medication.

“The side effects are significantly less. I haven’t experienced any side effects using it and I think that’s just my experience but you know with treatment it differs from patient to patient but what I can attest to is that the side effects of this one if I compare with the side effects I had with Efavirenz, whereby I had a loss of weight, loss of appetite, I became severely anemic and that became basically my condition," said Ogutu. "I haven’t been able to experience that with this new drug. So I think it’s a plus that we are now changing to medication that’s being used in developed countries.”

However Ogutu, whose organization African Sex Workers Alliance, has membership in 30 African countries, argues that more focus should be shifted to adherence.

“There’s a challenge and even for those living with HIV, adherence sticking to your drugs and finishing your drugs," said Ogutu. "There’s a lot more that still needs to be done around providing psycho social support for people living with HIV and I think we are losing it in all this conversation around prevention and I think it should be a slogan in this year’s World Aids Day 'People living with HIV lives matter.'"

According to the World Health Organization, more than 18 million people globally were receiving antiretroviral treatment. Dolutegravir (DTG) is set to be introduced in two other early adopter countries, Nigeria and Uganda.


Stop TB and Global Fund Deepen Cooperation to Find Missing Cases of TBGENEVA – The Stop TB Partnership and the Global Fund today signed a new collaboration agreement to contribute towards the goal of finding and treating an additional 1.5 million people with tuberculosis who are currently missed by health systems.

Under the TB Strategic Initiative, the Stop TB Partnership will work with national TB programs and partners in 13 countries, providing technical support through a combination of innovative approaches and best practices to remove barriers to accessing TB services, with a particular focus on key populations and vulnerable groups.

In 2016, 10.4 million people got sick with TB, an entirely preventable and curable disease. Only 6.3 million were detected and officially notified, leaving a gap of 4.1 million people who were “missed” by health systems after failing to be diagnosed, treated or reported. The result is many will die or continue to be sick and transmit the disease or, if treated with improper drugs, contribute to the growing menace of drug resistance.

PEPFAR continues to increase our impact in a cost-effective manner in fight against AIDS.

Children from the Andile School choir sing during World AIDS Day in Cape Town, South Africa
Children from the Andile School choir sing during World AIDS Day in Cape Town, South Africa Photo Credit: © AP

15.2 million voluntary medical male circumcisions to prevent infections in men and boys

As of September 30, 2017, PEPFAR supported more than 15.2 million biomedical preventive interventions (VMMC) in Eastern and Southern Africa to protect men and boys.

25-40% decline in new HIV diagnoses among adolescent girls and young women through DREAMS

In the 10 African countries (63 districts) implementing PEPFAR’s pioneering DREAMS (Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored, and Safe) public-private partnership, the majority (65% or 41) of the highest HIV-burden districts achieved a decline in new diagnoses among adolescent girls and young women ages 15-24 by more than 25% since 2015, including 14 districts that had a decline of greater than 40%. Importantly, new diagnoses declined in nearly all DREAMS intervention districts.

The Global FundThe Community, Rights and Gender (CRG) Technical Assistance Program provides support to civil society and community organizations to meaningfully engage in the Global Fund model, including during:

  • Country dialogue
  • Funding request development
  • Grant-making
  • Grant implementation

Under this program, national civil society and community organizations can apply for technical assistance in a range of areas, such as:

Communities can be powerful forces in the fight against malaria

The war against malaria has racked up some significant successes over the past half century. The testing of a new vaccine and the possibility of genetically modifying malaria-carrying mosquitoes to prevent them from reproducing have some people hoping we will soon be able to eliminate the disease. That’s likely still a long way off. It needn’t be, though, if we embrace a powerful but untapped resource for fighting malaria: the communities affected by it.

The EAC Sexual and Reproductive Health Bill, 2017The average maternal mortality ration in the EAC is 477 per 100,000 live births; the rate of female genital cutting is as high as 21% and 10% in Kenya and the United Republic of Tanzania respectively; adult HIV prevalence is as high as 7.1% in Uganda yet only 1.3% in Burundi and the proportion of family planning demand satisfied by modern methods is only about 40%. Only half of pregnant mothers in the region attend the recommended 4 Antenatal Care visits and deliver under skilled care.

Although the recommended level of the “package” of physicians, nurses and midwives” and financing required to attain the SRG related SDGs are 44.5 per 10,000 population and US $86 per person per year, the status in the EAC as a whole is only 12 per 10,000 population and US $ 49 per capita per year respectively.