26 June 2001


Press Briefing


The enactment of legislation to make cheaper anti-retroviral drugs available to HIV/AIDS sufferers did not automatically confer accessibility to the medicines, Kenyan Public Health Minister Sam Ongeri told correspondents this afternoon.

Responding to questions at a Headquarters press conference, Mr. Ongeri said the ministry must first put in place measures for the pre-registration of the drugs.  They would then be brought into the country as samples for evaluation before they could be cleared and later subjected to a period of post-surveillance, he said.

Once in use, the Minister said, the drugs must be monitored to assess their efficacy and side-effects as well as to ensure whether they actually worked.  The whole process required an expensive in-built infrastructure, he added.

Colossal sums of money were needed to contain the epidemic, Mr. Ongeri said in a video presentation during the press conference.  It would cost about $158 million to maintain Kenya's 2.2 million AIDS sufferers for life, while the Ministry's budget for all other diseases and care was approximately $119 million, he added.

The video also showed President Daniel arap Moi declaring HIV/AIDS a national disaster in 1999.  Among the emergency measures he announced were the formation of the Kenya National AIDS Control Council to lead advocacy, resource mobilization, monitoring and evaluation efforts.

Other steps included the teaching of AIDS education in all schools; harmonizing the age consent, marriage and majority at 18 years to protect young girls against infection by older men; the outlawing of all announcements of AIDS cures or treatments without the AIDS Control Council’s formal authority; and criminalizing the deliberate infection of another person with HIV.

According to official figures, the epidemic has killed 1.1 million Kenyans since it was first detected in 1984.  AIDS patients occupy about 50 per cent of the country's hospital beds and statistics indicate that the disease kills an average of 700 Kenyans every day.  That rate threatens to wipe out the entire population by the middle of this century if left unchecked.

Asked if Kenya would contribute to the Global AIDS and Health Fund, the Minister said the country would pledge a nominal contribution because that was the right thing to do.

Accompanying Mr. Ongeri was Minister of State Marsden Madoka, who told another questioner, in regard to the management of AIDS assistance funds, that all money allocated to fighting the scourge would be open for audit.

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For information media. Not an official record.