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KENYA: For the first time, money for ARVs

NAIROBI, 14 June 2010 (IRIN) - Kenya has set aside an unprecedented 900 million shillings (US$11.25 million) for the first time in its annual budget to purchase life-prolonging antiretroviral (ARV) medication; AIDS activists have welcomed the move but say more needs to be invested.

"It is quite commendable that the government of Kenya has allocated this money, even though we still need much more financial commitment for opportunistic infections like TB [tuberculosis], which is the leading killer for those with HIV," said Everlin Kibuchi, tuberculosis advocacy project manager at the Kenya AIDS NGOs Consortium.

"Going from zero to 900 million [shillings] is a huge step in the right direction," said James Kamau, coordinator of the Kenya Treatment Access Movement. Activists have been petitioning the government for many years to boost funding for HIV programmes.

Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta allocated a further $12.5 million to recruit 15 nurses and five public health technicians in each of the country's 210 parliamentary constituencies, with $62,500 per constituency for the expansion of healthcare.

However, the allocation covers just over one percent of the estimated US$959 million gap in funding for treatment and care that Kenya faces over the next three and a half years.

Donor funds carry more than 90 percent of HIV programmes, yet the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has rejected Kenya's last two requests for funding and the Clinton Health Access Initiative, which has been providing paediatric ARV formulations, has also withdrawn its support.

''Going from zero to 900 million [shillings] is a huge step in the right direction''
Despite the drop in funding, the ARV bill is expected to rise significantly after Kenya's decision to adopt the UN World Health Organization's new treatment guidelines, which recommend that patients be given ARVs when their CD4 count - a measure of immune strength - is at 350 rather than at the previously recommended level of 200 before starting treatment.

"We just have to wait and see," Everlyn Simaloy, who is living with HIV in the Kibera slum in the capital, Nairobi, told IRIN/PlusNews somewhat sceptically. "We have heard many promises ... if this comes to pass, it implies the government is concerned with the plight of people living with HIV."

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Theme (s): Care/Treatment - PlusNews, Economy, HIV/AIDS (PlusNews), PWAs/ASOs - PlusNews,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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