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HIV patients finally receive ARVs after months of shortage

CS Kagwe says government had not anticipated country would run out of stock

In Summary

•Patients will however receive enough drugs for short periods at a time till the regular supply is restored

In Kenya, at least 1.6 million people are living with HIV and one million are on ARVs.
In Kenya, at least 1.6 million people are living with HIV and one million are on ARVs.

Stella is among more than 1.5 million Kenyans who have borne the brunt of ARV drugs shortage in the country.

She had to endure long journeys to faraway facilities to get the refill of her dosage after her usual centre ran out of stock.

In most cases, she would get a refill to last her for two weeks. Previously, she got a dosage that would last her for more than three months.

She could not afford to buy from private facilities.

“At least the announcement that restocking of drugs should commence came as a sigh of relief, it gave me hope to face another day,” she said.

“Life has not been easy having to travel a long distance to get a refill sometimes on an empty stomach.”

Health CS Mutahi Kagwe last week sought approval for the drugs that have been lying at the Port on Mombasa since January over a Sh90 million tax row.

The stand-off came after USAID, who sponsors the commodities, eschewed Kemsa and sent ARVs and test kits to Kenya through a private US company, Chemonics International.

Some of the commodities that were being held include HIV testing, treatment and prevention utilities such as ARVs, laboratory reagents as well as TB diagnostic and prevention medications.

“The current scenario was not anticipated, and the government only got to know about the likelihood of delayed supply late in January. USAID is expected to hand over the same for distribution through the established systems,” Kagwe said.

The ministry has however noted that despite having received some drugs from other sources and restocking already going on in various health facilities countrywide, patients will receive enough drugs for short periods at a time till the regular supply is restored.

The National Empowerment Network of People Living with HIV/Aids in Kenya director Nelson Otuoma told the Star on Sunday that the situation will have stabilised by Wednesday.

“They are redistributing so I think that from next week Tuesday or Wednesday, they (ARVs) should be available,” Otuoma said.

He added, “The government should just put money into HIV programmes. We are talking about American money; we are not talking about Kenyan money. If they invest then everybody will have enough.”

Similarly, several HIV laboratories had halted sample collection until further notice after experiencing a stock out of testing kits, reagents and Dried Blood Spots (DBS) bundles.

The shortage came months after the World Health Organization raised the alarm, saying nearly 70 countries were at risk of running out of HIV/Aids drugs due to the Covid-19 pandemic that has interrupted supplies.