There are around 1.5 million people living with HIV in Kenya, around 400 000 of whom are unaware that they have the virus. If people do not know their status, it is impossible for them to access life-saving treatment.
There are also high numbers of new HIV infections, particularly among young people and among key populations. In 2015, there were an estimated 78 000 new HIV infections in Kenya. And testing rates are low, especially among men, meaning they are not able to benefit from treatment.
In response, the Government of Kenya has launched two innovative technologies that it hopes will bring ending the AIDS epidemic one step closer: self-testing for HIV and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to prevent HIV infection.
The Kenyan Ministry of Health has launched the Be Self Sure campaign to encourage people to get tested for HIV. As part of the campaign, the government is making HIV self-test kits available through public and private health facilities and selected pharmacies for around US$ 8 each, a low price which was negotiated in a partnership between government of Kenya and the private sector. From July 2017 the government hopes to make the test kits available for free in public health facilities.
The campaign website includes an interactive map to let people know where to get the testing kits from and plays videos demonstrating how to use the kits and tells people what to do if they are HIV-positive or if they are HIV-negative. A helpline, open for 12 hours a day, is also available.
For people testing negative for HIV, the site urges people to talk to their health providers about HIV prevention options, including PrEP, a medicine that people at higher risk of HIV infection can take to prevent becoming infected with the virus. PrEP is being rolled out as part of the campaign, with the Government of Kenya offering it free of charge in selected public health facilities as part of a combination HIV prevention programme for people most at risk of HIV infection, including young people, serodiscordant couples, people who inject drugs and sex workers. The medicine will also be available for around US$ 36 dollars a month at private hospitals and pharmacies for anyone wishing to use it.
Around 10 countries and the European Medicines Agency have now approved the use of antiretroviral medicines for HIV prevention, with more set to follow. The implementation of PrEP strategies follows the guidelines established by the World Health Organization in 2015, which recommend the use of PrEP by members of key populations. The number of people using PrEP to prevent HIV is now thought to have risen to around 120 000 people, the majority in the United States of America. The roll out of PrEP in Kenya is a major advance in efforts to stop new HIV infections in the countries most affected by HIV.
By launching this new initiative, Kenya is continuing to affirm its position as a leader and innovator in efforts to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030.
UNAIDS is working closely with Kenya to prevent new HIV infections and to ensure that, by 2020, 90% of people living with HIV know their HIV status, 90% of people who know their HIV-positive status are accessing treatment and 90% of people on treatment have suppressed viral loads. By achieving these targets, Kenya will be able to end its AIDS epidemic by 2030.