By Henry Neondo
Kenyan medics have launched a programme to treat people living with HIV/Aids.
According to the programme to be run by the Kenya Medical Association (KMA) in partnership with Family Health International (FHI), patients in Nakuru, Mombasa and Nairobi cities would buy drugs at half price.
Through the programme named Gold Star Network, members will buy drugs at nearly half the cost.
The cost of generic drugs, now at Sh2,500 will be halved to Sh1,200 for patients enrolled in the network.
According to the KMA chairman Stephen Ochiel, the network of private doctors aims at complementing the national subsidised HIV/Aids services, through treating those patients who can pay for their care.
The aim is to reduce the burden on government HIV/Aids services, and therefore reduce congestion in public health services, he said.
There are 60,000 HIV/Aids patients benefiting from free anti-retroviral drugs.
The Health ministry expects to raise the number to 140,000 by the end of the year.
But under the new KMA programme, patients who enrol with the network will be supplied with HIV testing kits and medicines for opportunistic infections.
Anti-retroviral drugs would be supplied at low cost following negotiated discounts by the network, said Dr Ochiel.
An initial 100 private practitioners are now being trained in anti-retroviral therapy and HIV care under the programme.
The launch of the network follows realisation that there is unexploited potential for delivery of anti-retroviral drugs in the private sector.
Less than 20 per cent of HIV-infected people receiving treatment in Kenya are managed by the private sector, even though most patients prefer getting treatment from private healthcare givers because they are guaranteed confidentiality and personalised services.
"The network is expected to ease pressure on over-stretched public health systems. If Kenya is to meet its target for universal access to treatment, emphasis has to be placed in public-private partnerships," said FHI country director John McWilliam.
Funds for the project will come from the United States government through USAID.