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Kenya to roll out drug to curb HIV infection

 

Kenya's health ministry said on Tuesday that it will roll out the new HIV intervention measure dubbed Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP).

The Head of the National AIDS and STI Control Programme (NASCOP) Martin Sirengo said the new HIV intervention measure will be rolled out in the country from April and will involve the use of PrEP among people who are HIV negative but who face the risk of contracting the disease.

"When you are on PrEP you must arm yourself with other preventive measures because no one method is 100 per cent effective," he said in a statement released by the ministry of health on Monday night.

"If you engage in sex with multiple partners please use condoms. This method is being introduced as part of a package of services; don't use it as the magic bullet," he cautioned.

The intervention seeks to lower the country's HIV transmission rate by administering oral antiretroviral medication (ARVs) to HIV negative individuals who face a substantial risk of contracting HIV.

These include HIV negative individuals in serodiscordant relationships (where one partner is HIV positive and the other is HIV negative); people who frequently contract Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs); individuals who are unable to negotiate condom use and safe sex in situations of repeated sexual or gender based violence; people who frequently use Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) as well as HIV-negative injecting drug users.

Rigorous assessment criteria will be used to determine those who qualify for treatment with PrEP only being administered to individuals who are above 15 years of age and who are HIV negative.

They will also be screened for kidney disease and Hepatitis B and C.

Those who have pre-existing kidney disease will not qualify for PrEP while those who have Hepatitis B or C will be placed on specific medication.

Kenya becomes the second country in Africa, after South Africa, to roll out PrEP. However, it is widely used in developed countries.

This has been necessitated by the rate of new HIV infections in the country.

In 2015, Kenya reported 77 600 new HIV infections.

Out of these, 71 000 were found to be in people aged 15 and above.

Sirengo cautioned users to combine PrEP with other preventive interventions like use of condoms and male circumcision to further reduce the risk of acquiring HIV.

He added that for PrEP to be effective users will have to take a pill every day and will be monitored on a regular basis.

They shall also be required to take an HIV test every three months. In the unlikely event that they acquire HIV while on PrEP, they will be placed on ARVs.

"PrEP will be available for free in select public health facilities with the government spending between 60 U.S. dollars to 70 dollars on one individual per year. The government is similarly working on the modalities of catering for free kidney and liver tests," Sirengo said.

PrEP takes seven days to be effective and users should continue taking it for as long as they are at risk.

The intervention measure works by preventing HIV from getting into the cells and multiplying.

Individuals who engage in transactional sex and other high risk behaviour are advised to go for an HIV test every three months.

It is otherwise recommended that one gets an HIV test at least once a year.

 

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Zim eyes deal with Eskom

 

Zimbabwe was negotiating a new deal to continue importing power from state-owned South African power utility Eskom to make up for shortfalls in generating capacity at its Kariba hydropower station, the energy minister said on Monday.

In January last year, Eskom agreed to a one-year deal to sell up to 300 megawatts of capacity to Zimbabwe, which was facing biting shortages of electricity caused by low water levels in the Kariba dam.

Generation capacity fell to a low of 275MW from 750MW, causing widespread blackouts.

Samuel Undenge told reporters after a meeting between Eskom and state power utility Zesa Holdings that the two utilities were still discussing how much Eskom would supply to Zimbabwe, adding that imports would be paid for upfront.

“I don’t want load shedding [scheduled power cuts] to return and we have been assured of continued support from Eskom so that we continue to have the country supplied with power,” he said.

Officials from Eskom and Zesa did not comment.

 

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Ethiopia to honour Madiba with new museum

 

The Ethiopian government says plans are under way to declare the Ethiopian federal police, regular and vocational training centre a museum in honour of struggle icon Nelson Mandela.

The centre, which is now used to train police officers, provided intensive military training for Mandela when he went underground during 1961.

During a visit at the centre, Ethiopian government officials told reporters that it was experiencing challenges in getting funding to make the centre a museum in order to preserve Madiba’s legacy.

The centre’s commander, Alemu Gabreyes, said Mandela spent about three months training and holding “highly secretive” meetings with generals in the military.

“Even when he relaxed, he would do so only with the generals. Everything was restricted as he did not even have interaction with other military officials. Very special care was provided to Nelson Mandela when he received training here,” he said.

Gabreyes said Mandela would sometimes box, shoot and exercise.

Ethiopian government communications officer Daniel Mikre said the government felt it was not too late to honour Mandela.

“As you know there is a lot of secret information that the Ethiopian government and freedom fighters shared during those years. Making this site a museum or tourist attraction will enhance the relationship between the two countries,” he said.

According to the Ethiopian embassy’s head of political and public diplomacy, Yohanes Altamo, the Ethiopian government had already agreed on a proposal to make the area a museum under Mandela’s name.

“We want international visitors and locals to come here and get to know about what happened in relation to Nelson Mandela. The discussions are quite recent. In fact there is an agreement already to make this a museum.

“Specific times and further information will be commu-

nicated. At the moment no tourist or locals are allowed to come here. The centre is only for military training purposes,” said Altamo.

During the visit, journalists were shown a room where Mandela held discussions and where he exercised. His bedroom has now been turned into an office.

Ethiopia’s ambassador to South Africa, Mulugeta Kelil, said, there must be a speedy resolution between the two countries.

“When he trained here, this place was not like this. It has changed over the years.

“ From our side we are ready to share the costs and we are expecting the South African government to play a part during this process.”

Ethiopian communications minister Negere Lencho said: “You have come to a place where the great freedom fighter Nelson Mandela got his training. You might have read about it in the history books, but these are the stories that we should not forget. These are the stories that we need to share.”

 

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