A new report on medical
treatment for children living with HIV says that about two-thirds of ailing
Kenyan youth are not getting access to the antiretroviral (ARV) treatment they
urgently need. A 100-page report by
Human Rights Watch says about 40-thousand Kenyan youth could die in the next
two years if they don’t receive the drugs, which are freely provided by the
government but are currently only reaching another 20-thousand Kenyan children. Human Rights Watch spokesman Ben Rawlence
says there are not enough
community health workers to help children gain access to testing and treatment.
“It’s primarily the Kenyan government – it’s
primarily the primary care centers, it’s the clinics, it’s the district
hospitals. And to the extent that they
need assistance with that, they should be requesting that from donors. The WHO and donors are involved. They are providing partnership, but it’s up
to the Kenyan government really to take the lead and say what its citizens
need,” he said.
The Human Rights Watch report points out that
antiretroviral drugs are free in Kenya.
But it says the Nairobi government’s HIV treatment program has failed to
get the lifesaving drugs to children born with HIV and it notes that half of
them will die before their second birthdays if they go untreated. A recent expansion of infant testing has
started to change that, but the report notes that the government needs to do
more to reverse child access barriers.
Rawlence says it is not an issue of cost.
“The message from everyone is pretty much
unanimous. The drugs should be available.
They’re not that expensive. It’s
just a question of getting them to the right places and providing the staff
with the relevant training and the relevant equipment,” he noted.
In addition to the World Health Organization,
Rawlence says that other global institutions and donor organizations are making
provisions and testing materials readily available to eastern and southern
African nations, which have experienced the highest number of child deaths
worldwide due to HIV. He says Kenyan
officials need to foster greater efforts to build a partnership with the
providers, making use of both parental and government safeguards to ensure that
the children are properly cared for.
“The Clinton Foundation is
already involved in Kenya. They’ve been
supporting this new test for infants as well as some targeted survivors of
retroviruses. That’s something that
they could pursue further. But it’s not really the kind of drugs that needs to
be different. It’s the same drug. It’s the ARVs that they already have. It’s administering them in lesser
quantities, according to weight. So the
challenge already exists. The drugs
already exist. It’s just making sure
that the Kenyan government is giving the relevant training, supplying them,
making them available to the children, making sure those children come to the
clinics and they show up for their follow-up appointments so that somebody’s
actually looking after them,” he said.