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MSF in Kenya, 2001
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New Law Gives Hope to People With AIDS
"My husband and baby died of AIDS. I am a person living with AIDS and, every day, 700 people like me die from the disease because they do not have access to affordable medicines, even though they exist," said Patricia Asero, AIDS outreach worker for MSF in the Kibera slums of Nairobi.
It is estimated that around 2.3 million people in Kenya are living with HIV and that around 700 people die per day of HIV-related infections. What has become a chronic disease in Europe and America, where advanced treatments have reduced mortality by 80%, remains a death sentence in Africa. The antiretrovirals (ARVs) and other essential medicines now used to treat AIDS in the West have been too expensive in countries like Kenya, and legal barriers have prevented the import and production of affordable medicines.
Patient Rights Over Patent Rights
Patricia Asero may have more cause for hope now. After a year of campaigning by the Kenya Coalition for Access to Essential Medicines (which includes MSF), the country's parliament passed a law in June 2001 that puts patient rights above patent rights. This new legislation, Industrial Property Bill 2001, remains compliant with WTO/TRIPS agreements. Under pressure from the coalition, multinational pharmaceutical companies have also lowered the price of ARV treatment in Kenya. MSF teams are now preparing to implement ARV treatment programs in the field.
MSF continues to treat HIV-related infections and counsel AIDS patients—along with caring for people suffering from other diseases or health problems—in the Nairobi slums of Mathare, Kibera, and Dandora. Additional HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis programs are running in Homa Bay, on the shores of Lake Victoria, and in the district of Busia. In Nairobi, MSF is also starting a program to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
Somali Refugees Linger in Dadaab
Ten years since the outbreak of war in Somalia, the fighting continues. Nearly 130,000 Somali refugees remain in three refugee camps in the Kenyan border town of Dadaab. Partly as a result of donor fatigue, funding for the refugee camps, where MSF is in charge of all health care, is diminishing, leading to decreased daily rations for the refugees. From January to June, this resulted in an increase in the number of malnourished children receiving care in the MSF therapeutic feeding center from 72 to 196.
A severe drought that particularly affected northern Kenya prompted MSF to open a nutritional program in Mandera. In Samburu, MSF provided food to 6,000 children in a medical-nutritional program from October to December 2000.