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Kenya to invest in research to curb spread of HIV/AIDS

Source:Xinhua Published: 2013-3-28 9:12:36

Kenya's health officials on Wednesday pledged to increase budgetary allocation towards research on HIV/Aids in order to discover effective tools of arresting the killer disease.

The State-run National Aids Control Council (NACC) said the East African nation intends to scale up investments in quality research that would boost prevention and treatment of HIV/Aids.

"Research is an effective tool to combat HIV/Aids and there is a general consensus from all stakeholders that more resources should be deployed towards wide research and dissemination of findings to increase public awareness of this disease," NACC's Head of Monitoring and Evaluation Patrick Muriithi told journalists in Nairobi.

He spoke during a media briefing on the upcoming National Biennial HIV/Aids Scientific Research Conference to be held in Nairobi on May 6-9.

Kenya intends to become a hub for quality and ground breaking research on HIV/Aids in order to strengthen prevention, treatment and management of the disease among an estimated 1.6 million infected adults.

Muriithi noted that Kenya has made progress in reducing the Aids burden but greater financing on collaborative research should be prioritized in order to achieve zero infections and deaths.

"We must accelerate progress towards zero deaths arising from HIV/Aids and innovative research is critical to inform us on effective protection and treatment tools. Financing research and development will boost development of vaccines and drugs," Muriithi said.

The East African nation has achieved a remarkable feat in the Aids fight by reducing the rate of infections by half in the last decade.

The 2007/8 Kenya demographic health survey contends that Kenya is on course towards meeting the Millennium Development Goal on eradicating Aids having rolled out progressive interventions in the areas of prevention and treatment.

Currently, Kenya has recorded 100,000 new infections annually down from 200,000 five years ago and experts attribute this achievement to effective policies, partnerships and adequate financing.

There are landmark studies that have been conducted in Kenya to illuminate effective strategies to control the spread of HIV/Aids.

According to Kirana Bhat, a virologist at the University of Nairobi, Kenya has played host to major studies on development of Aids vaccines and drugs alongside other clinical dynamics of the disease.

"Vital research on HIV/Aids has been conducted in the past, unfortunately, findings have not been revealed to the general public. We must innovate ways of communicating the research findings in order to inform the people on new developments in management of HIV/Aids," Bhat remarked.

Health experts have called for the need to scale up research on HIV/Aids in order to strengthen the national response to the pandemic.

The CEO, Network of People Living with HIV/Aids in Kenya (NEPHAK), Nelson Otwoma, challenged the government to invest in research that could shed light on infection patterns and available treatment options.

"We must sustain the momentum towards achieving zero infections and deaths and this calls for greater investments in research and development to establish the disease distribution, tools that prevent new infections and effective management of opportunistic infections like tuberculosis and cancers," said Otwoma.

It is now 31 years since HIV and AIDS was first discovered in the world. In Kenya, the first case of HIV and AIDS was reported in 1984. Since then several achievements have been made in the fight against HIV and AIDS.

The epidemic has stabilized with the prevalence rate having gone down from 14 percent (1990s) to 6.3 percent in 2009. HIV related deaths have reduced from 102,794 in 2000 to 57,000 in 2011.

However, the new infections still remain high, estimated at 104, 000 annually. It remains a major public health concern in Kenya. Similarly, the proportion of the HIV positive population accessing ARVs has increased to more than 540,000 people currently on treatment.

Nonetheless, NACC said there still exist continuing and emerging challenges that need to be addressed for the country to achieve its national goals and go beyond the universal access targets of 2010.
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