Kenya hosted the global health initiative -Unitaid board delegation led by Executive Board Chair Marisol Touraine with representatives of private sector partners and communities to deliberate on continued collaboration in HIV, TB, Malaria, Cervical Cancer, medical oxygen and Global Health Security and align Unitaid investments with government priorities.
According to Herve Verhoosel, spokesperson and head of communications Unitaid, Kenya is a top priority -both as the quickest country to adopt and scale up critical health innovations and as one of the countries where the greatest number of Unitaid projects are being implemented.
He added that, Unitaid supports 11 health projects in Kenya advancing access to better tests, treatments, and tools to manage HIV, TB, malaria, cervical cancer, fever management in children, medical oxygen, and maternal health.
“Together, Kenya and Unitaid have pioneered the use of early infant HIV diagnostics, best in class antiretroviral drugs for adults and children, child friendly TB medicines, cutting edge screen and treat solutions for cervical cancer, new malaria vaccine, access to covid-19 tests and therapeutics,” he said.
He added that, “Kenya and Unitaid have also been at the forefront on regional manufacturing of health products. In 2022, Universal Corporation Ltd was the first African manufacturer to gain WHO prequalification for medicine used to prevent malaria in pregnant women and Children. Revital healthcare Ltd has achieved US Food and Drug administration quality approvals for a respiratory device that supports newborns and infants with medical oxygen, without the need for electricity.”
While, Unitaid Deputy Director, Tenu Avafia said that the global organization has worked closely with Kenyan partners to enable affordable, equitable, and rapid access to game-changing health innovations for those who need them.
He explained that Unitaid is a global health partnership hosted by world health organization in Geneva with a role to finding innovative solutions to prevent, diagnose, and treat diseases and accelerate them more quickly, effectively, and for affordable prices to those with un-met health needs.
“We have position ourselves as an organization between innovators and scale up partners, in other words when there is a viable health innovation/product about to come out in the pipeline we asses its benefit and if it seen to be a game changer that will have a bigger health impact, we then accelerate it, in some cases development of the product and in most cases we accelerate the optimal introduction of the product into health system and then we hand it over once we have addressed the bottlenecks to various scale up partners such as governments and other global health multilaterals and bilateral such as Global Fund, USAID and PEPFAR and others.”
Since its creation in 2006 Unitaid has unlocked access to more than 100 groundbreaking health products to help address the worlds biggest challenges, including HIV, TB and Malaria and Women and Children health, Unitaid also has involved itself in pandemic preparedness and response.
Tenu Avafia, further explained that major work is to bring missing treatments to those who need them saying that in most cases medicines are typically developed for adults first and adapted for children later – a process that sometimes is lengthy and complex process that, without adequate funding and attention, can leave children waiting for years.
Unitaid is leading efforts to close remaining gaps looking into novel medicine delivery technologies that could further simplify treatment for children and seeking solutions to confront the most common causes of death among children with HIV, TB malaria and other diseases.
“Unitaid investments accelerated the development of child friendly formulations of antiretroviral medicines and strawberry flavored TB drugs that are properly dosed, flavored, and easy for a young child to swallow,” he said.
Impact of Unitaid Investment in Kenya
With the evidence generated from Unitaid investment, and with the technical assistance from WHO, Ministry of Health Kenya have updated national guidelines and better health solutions have been scaled up with financial resources of the government and funding agencies, primarily the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and malaria, and the US Presidents Agency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).
Kenya was the first African country to start using a generic version of HIV/AIDS drug Dolutegravir (DTG)that improves and prolong the lives of tens of thousands of people who suffer severe side effects and resistance to other existing HIV/AIDS treatments. Dolutegravir is now the preferred choice for first- and second-line treatment for all population groups living with HIV. The cost of dolutegravir based regimens is available at less than $50 per person, per year unlocking access to improved treatment to 1.3 people receiving ART in the country.
By 2022, 95 percent of HIV exposed infants in Kenya were tested for HIV with rapid point of care devices, allowing them to rapidly accessing treatment and care.
Affordable HIV self-tests have been rolled out and increase uptake of tests in first time testers and hard to reach population.
About 10,000 children diagnosed with TB are treated with strawberry flavored child friendly formulations developed through Unitaid support and 3HP- the short course regiment preventive therapy regimen that combines two TB drugs isoniazid and rifapentine-weekly for three months is now regimen for choice and generic fixed dose combinations have reduced cost by 20 percent of their original costs.
The new malaria vaccine is being rolled out country wide based on the remarkable 13 percent drop in all causes of childhood deaths and substantial reduction in severe malaria in the three pilot areas that is Kenya, Ghana and Malawi.
More than 300,000 women have been screened of cervical cancer and over 80 percent of those screened put on treatments.
Automated molecular diagnostic tools producing first accurate simple to use and near point tests for TB, HIV, Cervical cancer, hepatitis C and others have been introduced to Kenya as part of Unitaids pioneering work.
Kenya has also benefitted from several Unitaids products not piloted in the country through medicines patent pool and through various additional innovations such as improved HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis, malaria bed nets and malaria chemo-prevention.
Unitaid has also partnered with Vayu Global Health, a non-profit organization that specializes in low-cost health care equipment targeting developing countries, to manufacture the Kenya-made bCPAP machines.