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State Resolves ARVs Clearance Standoff

Kenyans living with HIV/AIDS can now heave a sigh of relief after the government resolved the standoff that had left the country staring at a crisis over  the supply of Antiretroviral drugs (ARVs).

In a Press release the Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe said the stalemate was resolved and the essential drugs cleared for distribution.

Fears had mounted among Kenyans living with HIV/AIDS following the tug of war between the government of Kenya and that of the United States of America over a consignment delay at the port of Mombasa.

Kagwe in the released statement said that 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,” noted the statement in part.

Kagwe in the statement further stated 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.

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.

“Patients will receive enough drugs for short periods at a time till regular supply is restored.,” added CS Kagwe.

Further, the CS noted that   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.

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

The agency had committed Shs .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.

Kenya has been experiencing an acute shortage of ARV drugs which has hit public hospitals, greatly affecting people living with HIV/Aids.

Persons with HIV have had to endure reduced doses, with children and unborn babies particularly poised to suffer the most from a Shs 90 million tax stand-off between Kenya and a US importer of ARVs, USAID.

The shortage comes just months after the World Health Organization (WHO) said nearly 70 countries were at risk of running out of HIV/Aids drugs due to the COVID-19 pandemic that has interrupted supplies.

The diplomatic row between the two governments saw USAID fail to approve antiretroviral drugs for distribution, leaving the country staring at a shortage crisis.

By Alice Gworo

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