Bold Kenyans taking part in HIV/AIDS clinical trials

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Before we dig deep into some Kenyans of good will and why they are not motivated by money to take part in medical trials in the journey of helping to find the cure for HIV; it’s important that we are knowledgeable about the type of exercise they are undertaking.  First question that will pop up into people’s minds is: What is an HIV/AIDS clinical trial? HIV/AIDS clinical trials are processes that help researchers find better ways to prevent, detect, or treat HIV/AIDS. All the medicines used to treat HIV/AIDS in the United States were first studied in clinical trials.

Examples of HIV/AIDS clinical trials:

  • Studies of new medicines to treat HIV
  • Studies of vaccines to prevent or treat HIV
  • Studies of medicines to treat infections related to HIV

Who is eligible to take part in this type of study? Anyone can participate on the study. Some HIV/AIDS clinical trials enroll only people who are living with HIV. Other studies include people who don’t have the virus. Recently, 281 healthy Kenyans aged between 18 and 50 volunteered themselves for the HIV vaccine trials, which were conducted by The Kenya Aids Vaccine Initiative Institute of Clinical research at Kenyatta hospital and Kangemi.

One may wonder how they took the bold step of taking part in an HIV-related exercise, considering stigmatization still abounds. By their own admission, 65 per cent said financial reward was not the principal reason why they volunteered to take part in the exercise. Most of them said they were motivated by a sense of altruism. They were proud to be part of a solution that would help a sick relative, the community or the world at large. Most of the younger people are however motivated by monetary gain. Because of their age, they are not yet financially stable and may be taking that as side hustle to earn some money. However it is different in other countries including developed nations. For example, in similar studies conducted in India and Brazil, money was found to be the main motivating factor.

Kenya’s participation in this exercise did not start now. It started way back in 1999 with the unsuccessful Kenyan- Canadian-British trials which involved HIV resistant prostitutes from Majengo Nairobi. But it did not stop there, as the journey to finding a cure has always been work in progress. Worth noting is that there are ongoing trials in Kenya, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, South-Africa, Tanzania and Zimbabwe to develop a two-months vaccine for HIV prevention. The vaccine would be an alternative to Truvada, a pill that is currently in use by HIV patients and has been associated with serious adherence problems.

BY CAROLINE OBUYA

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