Relief for HIV patients in Kenya as gov’t resolves row over ARVs distribution

Relief for HIV patients in Kenya as gov’t resolves row over ARVs distribution

The Ministry of Health now says the standoff that had left the country staring at a crisis of ARVs shortage has been resolved and the essential drugs cleared for distribution.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe said the current interruption in supply of the antiretroviral drugs is regrettable, adding that it was not anticipated.

“The Ministry of Health is cognizant of the regrettable interruption of the multi -month scripting and dispensation of ARVs for the management of HIV. The disruption has been occasioned by failure to receive a consignment of ARV donations that was expected to arrive by the end of October 2020… The current scenario was not anticipated, and the Government only got to know about the likelihood of delayed supply late in January,” reads the statement.

“The Ministry of Health has since sought approvals and cleared the drugs. Consequently, USAID is expected to hand over the same for distribution through the established systems.”

At the same time, the Ministry of Health says it has received some drugs from other pipeline sources and is currently restocking facilities around the country to ensure continuity of supply to patients.

“While this process is ongoing, patients will receive enough drugs for short periods at a time till regular supply is restored. Further, and in line with the Big 4 agenda as well as the journey towards self-reliance to achieve universal coverage of health, the Ministry is considering options for a sustainable financing of HIV interventions,” added CS Kagwe.

Kenya provides ARVs and other laboratory commodities to manage HIV through three main sources of funding; the Government of Kenya; The Global Fund for HIV, Tuberculosis and Malaria as well as the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

USAID had declined to approve distribution of the drugs in the country after the Kenyan government demanded Ksh.45.8 million in taxes for the healthcare donations, leaving the consignment stuck at the port of Mombasa.

The agency had committed Ksh.7.5 billion to purchase commodities and ARVs this year that could sort the country’s stock for 5 months for the over 1.2 million people living with HIV/AIDS. The rest of the months were to be from other sources of funding.

For the last five years, the USAID donations have been supplied through a medical commodity programme, a partnership between USAID and the government of Kenya that lapsed in September 2020 but was extended to April 2021.

Unfortunately, despite that agreement, USAID decided to make the donation through a third party, Chemonics Limited, with a consignment that was to arrive in the country in October 2020 doing so in January 2021.

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