At the moment, the country imports most of its treatment from Europe. The factory — which is will be largest of its kind on the continent — is a partnership between the government, local pharmaceutical manufacturers, and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis (TB), and Malaria.
Most of the ARVs will be under patent from European parent companies. This will reduce the amount Kenya spends on importing ARVs — mostly from Europe — and create an estimated 1,000 jobs.
The UK-based HIV and AIDS charity Avert estimates that at least 1.5 million Kenyans are HIV positive, with 53,000 new infections and 28,000 deaths annually, while 75% of infected adults are on treatment and 82% of infected children are on ARVs.
Kenya’s medical director, Dr Jackson Kioko, said: "This will cut our annual government budget from 38 billion shillings ($373 million) to a reasonable amount that we spend treating HIV/AIDS. This will also put about 300,000 people under treatment.”
The facility is expected to supply 23 countries in Africa, where HIV and AIDS remain one of the biggest health challenges. In East and Southern Africa, for example, 19.6 million people are HIV positive.
Meanwhile, the region has 800,000 new infections and 380,000 deaths annually; with only 66% and 59% of adults and children on treatment.
In West and Central Africa, 6.1 million people are HIV positive, with 370,000 new infections and 280,000 AIDS-related deaths annually, according to Avert.
By manufacturing ARVs, Kenya will also be able to address another problem that prevents people from accessing medication: counterfeit treatment.
The dangers and availability of fake medicines in Kenya was brought to attention in January, after a man was arrested for selling fake ARVs. He had a practising licence from Kenya’s ministry of health, according to reports.
“There is an increase of fake drugs in the market that has resulted in several cases of drug resistance to the AIDS virus as a result of misuse,” added Kioko. “The fake drugs are supplied by unregistered or fake medical personnel.”