EFFICACY

No toxic ARVs given out in Kenya - Aids experts

The ARVs that we have in the country are among the best in the world, say experts.

In Summary
  • High- income counties they are using the drugs that we are giving out here.
  • CECs claim dispatched drug is the same one the government said was no longer available in the country.
In Kenya, at least 1.6 million people are living with HIV and one million are on ARVs.
ARVS In Kenya, at least 1.6 million people are living with HIV and one million are on ARVs.
Image: FILE

The National Aids and STIs Control Programme has denied claims people living with HIV are being offered toxic antiretroviral drugs.

The denial came as County Executive Committee members for health claim the national government wants them to lie to Kenyans that they have received recommended ARVs.

It follows reports the Kenya Medical Supplies Agency is releasing  antiretroviral drugs that were phased out due to their adverse side effects.

But National Aids and STIs Control Programme (Nascop) head Catherine Ngugi maintained that the drugs are being mentioned by are not toxic.

“Under World Health Organization, the said drugs are still classified and there are countries in sub-Saharan Africa that are still using them,” she said.

Ngugi said  in 2018, Kenya was able to put people living with HIV on a more efficacious drug combination called TND.

“We do not have any toxic ARV drugs in the country. The ARVs that we have in the country are among the best in the world. In fact, in high income counties they are using the drugs that we are giving out here,” she said.

She said that Nevirapine is still being used in the country. “It is not toxic. It is still being used in the whole world, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa in preventing mother-to-child transmission," sleto prvub-Saharan Africa in preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV,” she explained.

Ngugi added, “It is only that in Kenya, we were more progressive and put people living with HIV on a better regiment than what was available.”

County Executive Committee members have claimed that no county had received the recommended ARVs.

Speaking after meeting in Nairobi on Thursday last week, the CECM Caucus said the drug that had been dispatched to the counties was the same one the government said was no longer available in the country.

“We are being forced to say we have the recommended drugs in our stores,” one CEC said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue and because he is not an official spokesman.

He said the government wants them to issue a statement stating that over the past three years, patients living with HIV have been transitioned to a highly efficacious combination of HIV drugs called the Tenofovir/Lamivudine/ Dolutegravir (TLD) regimen.

“We are being asked to say we can confirm none of the clients enrolled in our facilities are on a Zidovudine/ Lamivudine/ Nevirapine ARVs regimen. This would be a lie because this is what was dispatched to our facilities,” he added.

He further added that they have been asked to condemn reports that phased out drugs were being distributed.

“We are sending poison to our people and the government wants us to lie about it,” he said.

Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe has assured residents that there are sufficient ARVs to cater for all people living with HIV across the country. The drugs are at Kemsa and are being distributed to health facilities.

The country has been facing an acute shortage of ARVs, with Homa Bay being the most-affected county.

The shortage had been caused by a tax row between Kenya and USAID, which avoided  Kemsa and shipped ARVs and test kits through a private US company, Chemonics International.

The Kenyan government demanded Sh90 million in import taxes on the drugs, saying it wasn’t a tax-exempt government-to-government donation. The tax has since been waived.

The consignment valued at Sh1.1 billion had been lying at the port since January 18 following the stalemate.

Kagwe said the ministry proactively engaged the national Treasury to provide Sh500 million in the supplementary estimates that would be used to pay the import duty.

For the last five years, since September 2015, USAID donations have been managed through a five-year contract with Kemsa, but it lapsed on December 24, 2020.

The contract was extended to April 23, but the terms of the contract were reviewed only for warehousing and distribution and not procurement.

(Edited by V. Graham)