One of the consequences of the current political turmoil in Kenya is the plight of HIV-infected internally displaced persons (IDPs). According to IRIN,
“After (weeks) of political violence during which an estimated 250,000 Kenyans were displaced, health workers are scrambling to ensure that HIV-positive people on life-prolonging anti-retroviral (ARV) therapy continue to receive their drugs and adequate food supplies.”As of last week, only about 5 percent of our patients on ARVs had reported to refill their ARV prescriptions,” Sylvester Kimaiyo, programme manager of the Rift Valley-based Academic Model for the Prevention and Treatment of HIV/AIDS (AMPATH), told IRIN/PlusNews. “We have 58,000 HIV-positive people under our care, 24,000 of whom are on ARVs.””
The problem is that, as more patients miss their treatment, the probability of drug resistance increases. As a result, it will be costly to “re-start” patients and to find new ARV drugs to which the virus is not resistant. But with the current political situation, it is hard for health services to track down patients to ensure that they receive their treatment and food supply.
Moreover, in certain provinces where political opposition to the current government is strong, government workers from the Health Ministry are not received with open arms, to say the least, especially in the regions that have experienced the worst of the violence.
It is actually impressive that, in such a context, and in the general context of sub-Saharan Africa, there is such a well-organized system of health care delivery:
“(Ministry of Health’s provincial ART coordinator, Lennah Nyabiage) said her office was working with the local police to ensure that people were aware they could get treatment from any health center, even if it was not their regular one, as long as they provided medical records that showed they were on ARVs. The ministry has also placed notices in national newspapers advising people on ARVs and tuberculosis medication to report to their nearest health center for free treatment.”
As usual, tackling such issues involves multi-layered strategies where government and private entities both play a part as NGOs contribute to tracking down patients. For instance, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) set up a hotline to help people locate the nearest treatment center and provide any necessary information. Similarly, both the government and MSF have set up centers near IDP camps as this population is the hardest to reach and treat because it is notoriously unstable. Overall, this particular crisis has been handled very efficiently considering the circumstances.