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HIV Drug Implemented in Kenya
In 2017, there were approximately 36.9 million people living with HIV/AIDS worldwide. Additionally, 6.1 million of those with HIV were located in western and central Africa. Kenya, a country in eastern Africa, had approximately 1.5 million people living with HIV/AIDs in 2017. That same year, an HIV drug implemented in Kenya started to successfully combat this deadly immune system virus. Unitaid and the Kenyan government simultaneously introduced it to the country.

Dolutegravir and Antiretroviral Therapy

The new HIV/AIDS drug, Dolutegravir or DTG, received approval in 2014 and is the most recent and effective antiretroviral drug used in the treatment against HIV/AIDs. DTG has been the drug of choice in high-income countries for its antiresistance properties, few side effects and easy one pill a day treatment. In 2015, the World Health Organization recommended this drug replace other first-line regimens for adults and adolescents. Recently this drug was not available in low-income countries, like Kenya, because of its high cost.

In 2018, only 62 percent of people with HIV/AIDs had access to antiretroviral therapy, which was an increase from the previous year. This corresponds to the 23.3 million people who were able to receive treatment, however, approximately 14.6 million people could not access treatment. In Kenya, 75 percent of adults with HIV/AIDs received treatment in 2018, which increased from 2016, when only 64 percent of people received treatment. One reason for the increase in HIV/AIDs testing is the partnerships between the government of Kenya and Unitaid that began in 2017 which introduced the generic brand of DTG.

Now, the generic brand of this life-saving drug has been available to people in Kenya since early 2018. This new HIV drug implemented in Kenya has the potential to make life-saving drugs more accessible to those who would normally not be able to afford it. In 2017, a number of nonprofits including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Unitaid, USAID, PEPFAR and others agreed to a pricing agreement to help make the drug more affordable in developing countries. This pricing agreement would allow public sector purchases at $75 per person, per year.

Side Effects of Other Drugs

Before the introduction of DTG, the first-line drug in Kenya was Efavirenz, an antiretroviral medication with side effects for some users including nausea, dizziness, rash and headaches. When the pricing agreement first emerged, the Kenyan Ministry of Health decided that the first round of DTG it distributed would go to 27,000 people who suffered the negative side effects from efavirenz. Then, the Ministry of Health assigned various other health clinics to receive the drug until it could become available to the entire country.

The number of new HIV/AIDs diagnoses in Kenya has halved over the last decade to approximately 80,000 people a year. The new HIV drug implemented in Kenya will only help decrease the number of people suffering from HIV/AIDs. Comprehensive sex education, HIV/AIDs testing centers and the continuation of drug pricing agreements will help alleviate the prevalence of HIV in developing countries, like Kenya.

Hayley Jellison
Photo: Flickr


Since 1987, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and its leader Joseph Kony have caused conflict throughout Central Africa. Differing from typical anti-government insurgencies, the LRA has targeted citizens rather than the military. Ending LRA violence has been a goal of the Ugandan government since the 1990s, but attempts were initially unsuccessful.

In 2010, the U.S. became actively involved in ending LRA violence after grassroots advocacy movements brought the issue to the attention of Congress. In October 2011, President Obama deployed 100 U.S. Army Special Forces members to serve as advisory personnel and to aid the African Union Task Force, comprised of Uganda, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan.

Congress has four objectives for ending LRA violence in Central Africa:

  1. Protect of Central Africans from LRA attacks

    There has been a 92 percent reduction in LRA-related killings since 2012, partly due to the establishment of communication networks across the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo. These networks have allowed for the establishment of the LRA Crisis Tracker project, which provides timely updates on LRA attacks and abductions. The communication networks have also allowed for the establishment of an Early Warning Radio Network, which ensures that communities are warned if LRA troops are in a nearby area. This network has ensured that no large-scale massacres, such as the Christmas Massacre in 2008 that left over 600 dead, could occur in the last five years.

  2. Apprehend Joseph Kony and his senior LRA commanders

    Joseph Kony is believed to be hiding in Kafa Kingi in southern Darfur, and the Ugandan military has reported capturing or killing several senior LRA commanders between 2011 and 2014. In 2014, LRA commander Dominic Ongwen was arrested and placed on trial at the International Criminal Court. Court proceedings began last December.

  3. Encourage defection and reintegration among LRA soldiers

    Between 2010 and 2013, the number of LRA combatants dropped from approximately 400 to 250; in 2014, 80 percent of Ugandan male soldiers who left or defected from the LRA did so voluntarily. An innovative way in which the African Union Task force and U.S. government have promoted defections is through the “Come Home” program. By collecting information on known remaining militants from their communities, the U.S. military has been able to record personal messages for soldiers, which they broadcast through loudspeakers from helicopters and personalized leaflet drops. These personalized messages, along with other messages telling soldiers they will be welcomed back, have had a tremendous impact. In the last six months alone, at least 44 soldiers have defected after receiving personalized messages asking them to return home.

  4. Provide humanitarian aid to communities affected by LRA violence

    USAID focuses on providing resources that assist in early recovery following attacks, including healthcare services and food security resources for displaced persons. They have formed 94 community protection committees in the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the two countries currently most affected by LRA violence. International NGOs have focused their efforts on community-based programs that reintegrate former soldiers into communities and aid with the effects of post-traumatic stress and experienced trauma.

The innovative strategies of the U.S. and the African Union Task Force have had a positive impact, weakening the grip of the movement in the region and improving the lives of those in Central Africa. While Joseph Kony is still at large, with the continued support of aid groups and the U.S. government, ending LRA violence in Central Africa and restoring safe communities is closer to being achieved.

Nicole Toomey

Photo: Flickr

In 2013, conflicts came to a head and raged on in many parts of the world. From Sudan to Syria, civilians suffered the effects of war-torn territory and many have been forced to leave. The rate of refugees or Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) has hit a new high. The number of refugees around the world surpassed its previous high point around the second World War. Over 50 million people around the world qualify as refugees, with half of these being children.

The head of the U.N.’s refugee agency, Antonio Guterres, said in an interview that “We are witnessing a quantum leap in forced displacement in the world,” and if the 51.2 million displaced people were to form their own country, it would be the 24th most populous country in the world. With this many people struggling to find asylum, the reason for their refugee status comes into question.

There are no humanitarian acts that can stop this; aid can only go so far. Guterres has expressed serious concern for this, acknowledging that there are too many people that need help for the capacity of many humanitarian services. The problem cannot be covered with bandages anymore, and the root of the conflicts need to be addressed.

The increased tension in Central Africa, Iran, Ukraine and other countries in crisis threaten to push the displacement number higher than it currently is by the end of the 2014 calendar year.

Guterres notes that the conflicts have resounding effects, citing the fact that Iran and Pakistan still both host 2.5 million Afghan refugees and over 6 million people have been living in exile for at least five years, if not more. Conflict resolutions will not completely fix the problem, but it will serve as a small stepping stone to placing those who have been forced to flee their home countries.

Finding asylum for refugees around the world has proven itself more difficult than expected, with many Western countries tightening the borders and adding intense regulations that make it nearly impossible for refugees to find solace. Eighty-six percent of the world’s refugees are living in developing countries, shattering the idea that many find safety in developed countries like the United States, England or the like.

Safety is not guaranteed for refugees as their population rapidly increases. With little hope for the end of many current conflicts, it is likely the number of refugees for 2014 will surpass the current status with ease.

— Elena Lopez

Sources: New York Times, The Guardian, UN
Photo: The Guardian

westgate_mall
The three-day assault on the West Gate shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya has been a jolt to the UN, jerking their attention back to central Africa, and particularly the Central African Republic, and the multitude of problems that persist there. Several news channels have reported the UN’s avowal to renew efforts to stabilize the region, and France’s Francois Hollande has led the surge.

President Hollande stated that the entire region was threatened by “Somalisation,” reflecting the concerns with al-Shabbab and its historical ability to keep Somalia in a state of anarchy.

For the Central African Republic (CAR), Somalisation is already in full swing. Somalia’s collapse began as early as 1969, when military dictator Siad Barre began a brutal campaign which destroyed any semblance to order in Somali society. Likewise, CAR has had a long history of genocide, militia warfare, famine, and human rights abuses.

And, being caught between the much larger Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, and Chad–each with their own history of mass injustice and violence–CAR’s troubles have gone largely unreported by Western media outlets.

However, this is not to say that work is not being done in CAR. The recent reports and rhetoric are welcome in that they may serve to bring the public’s attention to the plethora of issues needing immediate solutions, but they do a disservice to the UN, NGOs, and scientists already working in CAR.

The UN keeps current data on CAR, and currently has programs operating through the World Food Programme and UNICEF, among others. Setbacks have occurred, and continue to occur, but that is often the cost of sending aid to regions which need it most.

When a rebel attack on the capital of Bangui prompted looting of the UN warehouses there, it was not the fault of the UN, or a signal that their programs there are being ignored by the central powers in New York. In a country of 4.6 million, where 1.6 million are in dire need of food and other assistance, a large source of sustenance naturally a prime target in a period of extreme unrest.

Scientists have also maintained a steady rate of interest in the country. A recent report by the Center for International Forestry Research iterated the necessity of stabilizing environmental degradation in central Africa, if social order is ever to be attained. Like its neighbors, CAR is rich in metals and minerals.

The corporations which pay for the extraction and shipment of those resources have spotty records, at best, complying with any kind of environmental protection laws. As pollution accumulates in the region, agriculture and pastoralism become more difficult–thereby prompting the kind of looting on UN food stocks seen in Bangui.

And even before the West Gate attacks, the UN was working on reopening some of its operations in CAR, signaling its refusal to forsake the region.

While the results have not been perfect, and the successes remain largely invisible to global audiences, the implication that CAR has ever fallen off the radar of international aid and development agencies is simply untrue, and a disservice to the organizations and their workers there who risk a great deal to bring necessary goods and services to the struggling region.

– Alex Pusateri

Sources: Fox News, Reuters, Trust, UN, CJA, New York Times, UN: Central African Republic
Photo: Webmania