Editorials

Expand access to HIV drug

ARVs

About 69,000 children born to HIV-positive mothers risk getting infected due to a shortage of some antiretroviral drugs (ARVs). PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

The planned launch of a first generic paediatric version of a key anti-retroviral for children living with HIV in Kenya and several other nations in Africa is good news.

Aid agencies said the first batch of the strawberry-flavoured tablet would be available for babies in Benin, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Uganda and Zimbabwe in the first-half of 2021 and at a much cheaper cost than the current dosage.

The estimated cost for combination therapy will now be some $120 (Sh13,280.40) for a child’s annual treatment, against $480 (Sh53,121.60) currently. This follows a pricing deal between global health agency, UNITAID, the Clinton Health Access Initiative and the generic drugmakers Viatris and Macleods for the dispersible paediatric formulation of dolutegravir.

This is no doubt a game-changer for poorer countries where millions of children have for decades either died or suffered deep anguish because their parents and guardians could not afford treatment. The current line of anti-retrovirals has also not favoured children because it is often hard to administer.

The launch of tablets palatable to children is therefore a win for millions of households in Africa. Governments in the recipient countries should ensure that the drug reaches as many deserving cases as possible.