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Hospitals run out of infant HIV test kits

By George Kebaso
Friday, April 9th, 2021
HIV testing. Photo/PD/file
In summary
    • Health CAS Dr Mercy Mwangangi  said communication with USID and the ministry collapsed last October when it started giving a cold-shoulder to correspondences from Afya House.
    • We have continued to engage with the USAID even seeking a physical meeting with them but that has not borne any fruit,” she said.

George Kebaso @Morarak

Plight of over one million people living with HIV remains unknown over a glaring shortage of Antiretroviral therapies (ARVs). 

The revelation comes even as the government said it had cleared a tax row with the US, which was initially seen as the bone of contention.

Worryingly, millions of infants born with HIV could be at a risk of delayed diagnosis following a reported stock out of infant testing kits already running into five weeks. 

The  Ministry of Health made the disclore , which, however, reported that the kits might be in the country on May 15.

Yesterday, new concerns emerged over a private entity contracted by the US Agency for International Development (USAid) to ship in the life-saving drugs is holding onto millions of packs of ARVs at the port of Mombasa.

National Aids Control Council Chief Executive, Dr Ruth Masha, said the country is faces a risk of stock-outs yet a tax bottleneck had been cleared.

She expressed concern regarding he sudden silence from USAid over the matter yet in the past it has been vibrant in the sourcing of ARVs for Kenya.

“We have been experiencing stock outs for infant diagnostic kits for the last one month.

We have about 1.8 million packs of ARVs for adults, only enough for a month’s supply and about 1.2 million clients to access them,” she told the National Assembly Departmental Committee on Health during a virtual meeting, yesterday. 

The country has about 900,000 adolescent patients on ARVs. 

Masha, however, said as it is currently, all HIV patients have drugs at hand to run them for about 3-6 months.

Tax dispute

Last weekend, it emerged that the lives of 1.5 million HIV patients hang in the balance as millions of ARV packs valued at Sh2.1 billion were stuck at the port of Mombasa over a tax dispute between Kenya and USAid. 

The government later issued an order to waive the import levies even as the National Assembly voted for Sh850 million to be allocated towards payment of the taxes in order for the drugs to be released.

It is understood that the ARVs arrived in the country on January 18, but due to a disagreement between Kenya Revenue Authority and USAid on who should pay the taxes, the drugs remained at the port.

The government handed a Sh90 million-tax bill to the American firm Chemonics, which had imported the drugs on behalf of USAid.

This, the government said, was because USAid side-stepped protocols on HIV and tuberculosis drug donations.

Instead of using government channels, USAid used a private firm and Kenya argues that the arrangement flouted tax waiver policies on government-to-government donations.