HIV/AIDS Testing Campaign in Kenya Successfully Combines Diarrhea and Malaria Prevention.

A campaign in Africa to prevent malaria, diarrhea and aids used a unique approach to get a large number of people to test for HIV in a short period of time. It was created by the Vestergaard-Frandsen Company, which creates products to prevent disease in developing countries. The campaign was designed by the company's CEO, Mikkel Vestergaard-Frandsen. Voice of America English to Africa Service reporter Cole Mallard reached him in Lausanne, Switzerland, to learn more about the IPD, described as "the largest private sector-led HIV testing campaign in the world."

Vestergaard-Frandsen said that malaria, diarrhea and AIDS affect each other so the company wanted to demonstrate that the prevention of these diseases "is so much stronger united than apart." He said the objective is to test and counsel some 80% of sexually active adults, and testing efforts in sub-Saharan Africa haven't come close to that. The IPD designer offers Ethiopia's 2.3%, Zambia's 3.4% and Kenya's "in the region of 10"% as examples.

Vestergaard Frandsen says getting children to sleep under a bednet has succeeded, but not so with adults, so he decided the company should give out a free bednet at HIV testing and counseling centers to increase participation. The effort succeeded. The company got 80.2% participation, testing 47,000 people for HIV in a week.

Lop-sided Funding

Another goal of the campaign was to reduce the incidence of diarrhea. But Vestergaard Frandsen said the effort is under-funded compared to efforts to treat HIV/AIDS. For example, "If you're the minister of health for Kenya, you can get easily $2,200 per patient per year for second line…treatment, but you can't get five dollars per patient per year for diarrhea prevention and that's what most of your patients die of." So he says it was natural for the company to offer what it calls a free "CarePack" to encourage more people to come for AIDS testing. The CarePack includes condoms, education materials, long-lasting insecticide-treated bednets, and water filters which give a family of six EPA standard water for three years. He says, "It's a huge breakthrough in public health to be able to deliver an entire package of basic health intervention…for families without the need for repeat intervention; you do it once and it works for years."

Vestergaard Frandsen says the company partnered with the Kenyan health ministry in a location in western Kenya with a population of 110,000 people of whom about half were in the targeted group of sexually active people between 15 and 49 years old.

He says, "We want to publish the data to make it available for everybody to see that this is ground-breaking science and this should be used not only in western Kenya but throughout the borders of Kenya and hopefully all over sub-Saharan Africa."

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