Kagwe – Kenya needs HIV drugs’ budget to cut reliance on donors

Kenya should start budgeting for her own HIV drugs instead of perennially relying on donors, Health CS Mutahi Kagwe has said.

At the moment, Kenya usually gets the vital medicines through donors, Usaid and the Global Fund.

Mr Kagwe’s move comes after a protracted push and shove over distribution of the life-saving drugs erupted between the government and Usaid, threatening the lives of HIV patients in Kenya.

The standoff ensued after Usaid declined to approve the distribution of the drugs in the country after the government demanded KES45.8 million in taxes for the KES1.2 billion drug donations.

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After deliberations, however, the consignment has since been released from the Port of Mombasa for distribution.

The agency had committed KES7.5 billion to purchase commodities and ARVs this year supplies that were expected to manage the country’s stock for five months for the over 1.5 million people living with HIV in Kenya

“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… The current scenario was not anticipated, and the government only got to know about the likelihood of delayed supply late in January,”

Addressing the Health Committee, Kagwe said the Usaid  had proposed to use Chemonics international to procure and supply the ARVs to Kenyans, citing trust issues with crisis-saddled Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (KEMSA)

However, Kagwe says they have finally struck a deal with Usaid that will help in strengthening of systems at Kemsa saying Kenya has no convincing information about Chemonics company hence would not allow Usaid to use it in supplying the ARVs.

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For the last five years, donations from the Usaid have been supplied through a medical commodity program, a partnership between Usaid and the government that ended in September 2020 but again got an extension to April 2021.

About 1.5 million Kenyans are living with HIV/AIDS with women registering a high number of infections compared to men. Homa Bay County is in the lead with 18.5 per cent HIV prevalence.

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