Kenya’s First Lady Margaret Kenyatta has met Prince Harry and musician Sir Elton John at the launch of the MenStar Coalition at the International Aids Conference 2018 in Amsterdam.
MenStar Coalition is a $1.2 billion initiative to break the HIV transmission cycle in men through testing and treatment which has set a target of eliminating the AIDS epidemic by 2030. Both Prince Harry and Elton John are HIV and AIDS campaigners, and have been part of various panel discussions.
The coalition has brought together seven groups with the aim of fighting to eradicate AIDS, including the Elton John AIDS Foundation, Johnson & Johnson, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Gilead and the US government’s PEPFAR programme.
MenStar’s first project will be to launch a new HIV self-testing campaign aimed at young men in Kenya.
“It makes sense to start the HIV self-testing campaign in Kenya as the INSTI HIV Self Test is already widely available and is the only test to hold all local regulatory approvals due to its superior performance and 1 minute time to result,” explained Ryan Bennett, Senior Director of International Sales.
“The test is on the ground, pharmacies are stocked but demand generation has been lacking in the drive to reach young men to get tested. That’s the single greatest reason why this initiative is so important – to drive awareness and eventually testing,” he added.
According to report by UNAIDS, in sub-Saharan Africa men and boys living with HIV are 20% less likely than women and girls living with HIV to know their HIV status, and 27% less likely to be accessing treatment.
Despite their many social and economic advantages, men are less likely than women to seek out health care, to take an HIV test, or to initiate and adhere to HIV treatment.
At the conference, Prince Harry who co-founded the Africa-based charity Sentebale, discussed issues faced by youngsters living with HIV in Southern Africa.
Speaking at the event, Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex, said: “New, energetic and innovative solutions are needed more than ever before – and that is exactly what you are about to see from Sir Elton John and the MenStar Coalition partners.”
Veteran AIDS campaigner Sir Elton John added: “Young people are the only age group where HIV infections are rising, not falling. We have to do much, much more to bring men, especially younger men more fully into the fold.”
He added that while much work has been done to protect women and girls, “We can’t solve the whole problem if we are only addressing half the situation.
“If we want to win this fight, if we want to end AIDS once and for all, we must make men part of the solution” and teach them to protect themselves, “not only their wives and girlfriends, their sisters, and daughters, but also critically their brothers and their sons.”