Nairobi — Kenya is among the first African countries to receive the new formulation of the Paediatric ART to be administered to children and infants living with HIV.
The new ART regimen drug – Dolutegravir (DTG) which was not initially available for children weighing less than 20kgs, has been rolled out in 12 counties said to account for 50% of infected children.
The tablet, taken orally, has also been approved for use in paediatric patients from four weeks of age weighing at least 3 kg in combination with other antiretroviral treatments (ARVs).
National AIDS and STI Control Programme (NASCOP) HIV Technical Advisor Lazarus Momanyi said the new treatment will boost the immunity of children and infants as it is easy to administer, comes in strawberry flavour and is soluble.
“Children are among the most vulnerable and disproportionately affected populations in the HIV epidemic. The lack of optimal antiretroviral medicines with suitable pediatric formulations has been a longstanding barrier to improving health outcomes for children living with HIV, contributing towards low treatment coverage, and poor virological suppression,” said Dr. Momanyi.
Counties that on this new treatment include Kisumu, Homabay, Kakamega, Uasin Gishu, Nakuru, Nairobi, Kiambu, Machakos, Kilifi, Meru and Garissa.
The Ministry of health plans to have rolled out the Pediatric ART to the remaining counties by January 2022.
This approval will greatly expand the use of DTG among children and adolescents, providing them relatively rapid access to an optimal drug that has so far – like many paediatric ARVs – only been available to adults,” he added.
Majority of AIDS-related deaths among children occur during the first five years of life and the expedited development and introduction of optimal peadiatric formulations for children above 3 kg and 4 weeks of age is a significant milestone with the potential to save many lives
The World Health Organization estimated 770 000 people died from HIV-related causes in 2018 and there were 1.7 million new infections.
Children under the age of five represented approximately 14% of the total deaths due to HIV infection.
In Kenya, the number of Children living with HIV fell from 180,000 in 2010 to 111,500 in 2020, partly due to improved access to services including for more pregnant women.
However worst outcomes are still being recorded due to challenges attributed to few accessing the pediatric HIV treatment.
According to the National AIDS & STI Control Program (NASCOP), 106,807 children aged between 0-14 yrs are living with HIV. 68, 011 (63.7pc) are on ART coverage, with 87.2% reported to have achieved viral suppression.
Other challenges include identification of infants born to HIV positive mothers, treatment coverage, and lack of understanding on how to correctly administer drugs by parents /guardians.
“We are working on ways to boost testing to all mothers and adequate follow ups as well as train them on administering of HIV treatment to infected children,” said Dr Momanyi.