NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) – Kenya is the first country in Africa to introduce a generic version of the current drug of choice for people living with HIV, officials said Wednesday.
Kenya’s government and the global health initiative Unitaid announced that the East African nation will make the generic version of dolutegravir available for routine use. They said Nigeria and Uganda will introduce the drug later this year.
The move is part of efforts to make such drugs that are widely used in developed countries more accessible to impoverished ones. It can take more than a decade for new drugs to be introduced in lower-income countries, Unitaid said.
The World Health Organization says the region most affected by HIV is sub-Saharan Africa, which has two-thirds of the world’s new HIV infections. In 2015, more than 25 million people in sub-Saharan Africa were living with HIV, according to WHO.
Kenya’s health ministry says it will give the drug initially to 27,000 people living with HIV who can’t tolerate the current drug of choice used in the country, efavirenz. It will be distributed free of charge as part of the country’s free antiretroviral program in public hospitals, officials said.
The plan is to make the drug available nationwide later this year.
An estimated 1.5 million people in Kenya are living with HIV, and a little over one million are on antiretroviral drugs.