Kenya scraps fee on AIDS drugs

NAIROBI – Kenya will start providing free AIDS drugs in government hospitals and health centres, President Mwai Kibaki said on Thursday, scrapping fees activists say have kept some poor patients from receiving treatment.

“I am pleased to announce that the government has

waived with immediate effect, the 100 Kenya shillings ($1.39) being charged on anti-retroviral drugs in government hospitals and health centres,” Kibaki said in a speech marking 43 years since Kenya achieved self-rule from Britain.

Kenya’s HIV/AIDS prevalence rates have declined from 14 percent in 2000 to 7 percent in 2004, according to the National AIDS Control Council.

Although prices of ARVs have dropped substantially over the years, it has been difficult for many Kenyans who live on less then a dollar a day to access them.

“This is a critical step … we look forward to seeing reduced costs for treatment support such as lab tests, whose costs are still prohibitive,” said Mwihaki Kimura Muraguri, HIV/AIDS programme manager with the African Medical and Research Foundation (AMREF) Kenya.

Aids patients have to treat frequent opportunistic infections and take a battery of medical tests monthly for the ARVs to be administered properly.

NGOs are concerned that improper use of ARVs could enable the virus to build up resistance to the drugs.

Muraguri said AMREF had begun a programme to educate communities in Kenya on correct administration of the drugs, the importance of nutrition and monitoring in the treatment of HIV/AIDS. — Reuter

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