Kenya to scale-up access to PrEP for adolescent girls and young women

13 September 2016

Gates Foundation awards grant to expand access to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for key affected populations in Kenya

Women in Uganda are given sexual health and condom education
PrEP gives women a way to protect themselves that doesn’t rely on their partners

Kenya is to become only the second African country to dramatically scale-up access to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), after the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation awarded US $22.3 million to implement this highly effective HIV prevention strategy to 20,000 Kenyans most vulnerable to HIV.

PrEP – antiretroviral treatment given to HIV-negative people most at-risk to HIV – has been shown to be more than 90% effective in preventing infection when taken consistently. Increasing access to PrEP is a central tenant of the new World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines released in November last year (2015).

The global health non-profit organisation leading the project, Jhpiego, an affiliate of John Hopkins University in the USA, will work in partnership with the Kenyan government to develop creative strategies for PrEP delivery to key affected populations, notably adolescent girls and young women, among others.

Over the course of the four-year ‘Bridge to Scale’ project, they are aiming to learn and develop new and creative methods to reach these populations, who are often unable to access healthcare because of social and cultural norms, or stigma and discrimination.

The project will be delivered widely across the health system, with the aim of it being sustainable. It will seek to understand the barriers to health services, how PrEP can be integrated into routine health practices, and how access can be increased.

Leslie Mancuso, Jhpiego President and CEO, said that the project will put health care into the hands of those who need it most: “Oral PrEP is a breakthrough HIV prevention strategy because it gives any individual the power to protect themselves rather than having to rely on a partner or partners to use condoms or adhere to their HIV medicine."

Both Kenya and South Africa are the first two African countries to move forward with PrEP strategies – both having implemented small-scale demonstration projects as a starting point for their scale-up. The Bridge to Scale initiative is thought to be the largest donor-funded programme of its kind.

Photo credit:
©Gemma Taylor