USAID STALEMATE

Kenya runs out of HIV testing kits for babies

As a result, testing has sank to the lowest level since 2010, an analysis by Nascop shows.

In Summary

• Dr Andrew Mulwa, head of preventive and promotive health services at the Ministry of Health, acknowledges the rampant shortage and promised to have it resolved

•Kenya recently revised its early infant diagnosis guidelines to include HIV DNA PCR testing at birth, six weeks, six months, and 12 months postnatal and a final 18-month antibody test

Without treatment, a third of babies with HIV die before their first birthday, and half before they are two years old.
Without treatment, a third of babies with HIV die before their first birthday, and half before they are two years old.

Most babies born to HIV positive mothers are not being tested for the virus because public laboratories have run out of testing kits for infants.

As a result, testing of infants last month sank to the lowest level since 2010, an analysis of trends by the National Aids and STIs Control Programme shows.

Early diagnosis of infants enables providers to secure treatment of those who have HIV-infection and identify those who are HIV-exposed but not infected.

Also affected by the stockout is viral load testing, which is now no longer being conducted.

The stock-out of the testing reagents and kits is partly as a result of the USAID stalemate that also led to shortage of ARVs since January.

Some testing products are said to have expired at the port during the stand off.

Dr Andrew Mulwa, head of preventive and promotive health services at the Ministry of Health, admitted the rampant shortage of test kits and promised to have it resolved.

“We have procured lab commodities and supplies which should be in the country next week,” Mulwa told members of the Lab Technical Working Group in Mombasa last week.

At least 10 per cent of all babies born to HIV-positive mothers in Kenya also contract the virus, the Ministry of Health says.

If these babies are not identified through testing and put on treatment, a third of them die before their first birthday, and half before they are two years old.

Kenya's early infant diagnosis guidelines show infants should get HIV DNA PCR testing at birth, six weeks, six months, and 12 months postnatal and a final 18-month antibody test.

People living with HIV, through their lobby Nephak, confirmed early infant diagnostic kits have been unavailable for the last four months.

“How will the country achieve the HIV targets and especially the Mother to Child Transmission of HIV targets if basic things like HIV testing kits and reagents are not available in all facilities?” said Nelson Otuoma, head of Nephak.

The six-month long impasse between Kenya and Usaid over the distribution of ARVs and testing commodities was resolved in June.

National Aids Control Council CEO Ruth Masha said the committee convened by the NACC held a series of meetings with US representatives where all outstanding issues were resolved.

"The resolutions include the signing of a framework and implementation letter to facilitate tax and fee waivers, and distribution of age USAID purchased commodities," Masha said in a statement on June 30.

"These commodities are now cleared and ready for distribution."

"The council looks forward to continued access to safer and efface-us drugs by people lining with HIV and the resumption of dispensation of multiple months supply of ARV drugs as guided by differentiated service delivery model developed by Nascop," she added.

Edited by EKibii