By Constance Ndeleko
The diplomatic row between the two governments saw USAID fail to approve antiretroviral drugs for distribution, leaving the country staring at a shortage crisis.
In a press release today, CS Mutahi Kagwe said the disagreement was resolved and the drugs have been cleared off for distribution. He further elaborated that the current scenario was not anticipated and that the Government only got to know about the likelihood of delayed supply late in January, adding that the current interruption in supply of the antiretroviral drugs is regrettable.
“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,” read the statement in part.
CS Kagwe observed that the Ministry has received some drugs from other pipeline sources and is currently restocking facilities around the country to ensure continuity of supply to patients.
The country had been experiencing an acute shortage of the Antiretroviral (ARV) drugs which had adversely affected people living with HIV/AIDS including children. The major hit was on public hospitals.
The shortage came shortly after announcement by WHO stating that, ‘nearly 70 countries were at risk of running out of HIV/Aids drugs due to the COVID-19 pandemic that has interrupted supplies.’
This development had forced people living with HIV to reduce their doses. Children and unborn babies were expected to suffer the most from a Sh90 million tax stand-off between Kenya and a US importer of ARVs, USAID.
USAID, who sponsors the commodities, had eschewed Kemsa and sent ARVs and test kits to Kenya through a private US company, Chemonics International. As a result, a Sh1.1 billion consignment had been lying at the port since January 18 after being handed a Sh90 million tax bill.
USAID also wanted to establish its own, parallel drug distribution system in Kenya through Chemonics, instead of using Kemsa.
Homabay stands as the most affected county in Kenya as the drugs lied at the Mombasa port.
In a statement by the dailies, Homa Bay Woman Rep Gladys Wanga said, “We are concerned for our people, which we are going to have more deaths, probably more than those dying of COVID-19.” She further mentioned, “There is also an acute shortage of rapid test kits. The only way you test people and get them into treatment is through the rapid test. Currently, they are only choosing who to test because many facilities do not have these kits,”
Prior to the standoff that has caused the current shortage, children in Kenya were facing trouble accessing the right medication.
According to the Star Newspaper, Last year, at least 6,806 babies were born with HIV, mainly because their mothers did not take medication properly during pregnancy and after birth. About 106,807 Kenyan children below 14 years are living with HIV, but only 72,968 are on treatment, according to the National Aids Control Council. That number is expected to rise.
The shortage has especially affected dolutegravir, whose sweet tablets for children had been announced in December. Most common pediatric drugs today include a syrup that is 40 per cent alcohol, and has a bitter metallic taste that lingers for hours.
Health CS Mutahi Kagwe said in 2019 that 4,333 children were killed by Aids, being 11 per cent of all HIV-related deaths that year. Lack of drugs for adults could also lead to more babies born with HIV.
According to data by the National Aids Control Council, the national HIV prevalence rate stands at 4.2 per cent.
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