USAID, Kenyan government in tussle over distribution of ARVs


USAID, Kenyan government in tussle over distribution of ARVs
A screengrab of a person living with HIV/AIDS taking their ARV drugs. PHOTO| COURTESY

The USAID-Kenyan government stalemate over antiretroviral treatment and other donated health supplies remains unresolved with 1.2 million people living with HIV/AIDS unsure of what the future looks like in regards to management of their HIV status.

Citizen TV is in possession of a letter from the Ministry of Health to USAID dated April 19, 2021 that confirms the agency is only keen on distributing the drugs through a US-based based private company, Chemonics, and not using the Kenya Medical Supplies Agency (KEMSA) and other existing structures.

Kenyans living with HIV/AIDS breathed a temporary sigh of relief last week when it was announced that the Kenyan government had cleared the way for the distribution of Ksh.2.1 billion worth of life-saving antiretroviral drugs, donated by the us government, that has been delayed at the port of Mombasa since January.

However, in a case of premature celebrations, a fresh controversy has emerged after USAID refused to release the consignment demanding that a private us based company, Chemonics International, be contracted to conduct the distribution before the drugs are released.

This new twist came just days after Health CS Mutahi Kagwe announced to Parliament that the government had cleared all outstanding taxes for the commodities and that the USAID donations will be released to save lives of more than 1.2 million patients who rely on the life-saving medicines.

Citizen TV has learnt that USAID only released a few HIV-related commodities to the Ministry, choosing to hold on to crucial ARVs whose stocks in the country were running low.

A letter from the Ministry to USAID and dated April 19, 2021 states that, “we have been informed at the condition precedent, that is, the release of the already cleared anti-retroviral drugs shall be subject to the government of Kenya accepting to contract Chemonics. This new development is contrary to the assurances presented to the PEPFAR coordinator during a meeting convened by the representatives of communities of people living with HIV held on April 14, 2021 with a view to resolve the ARV stalemate.”

The government says the situation of including Chemonics in the distribution chain required changes to multiple legal frameworks that are not within the purview of the Ministry of Health.

This move jolted the government into action, as they made an emergency arrangement with the Global Fund — another donor — to support the country with drugs for the next three months. Coincidentally, the United States is also a donor of the global fund medication that was flagged off last week at KEMSA, but it is not the same supply of drugs under dispute with USAID.

KEMSA is on Tuesday, April 27 set to release ARVs worth Ksh.125 million to cover 106,000 patients or those living with the virus in Kisumu county as the State moves to pre-empt the spiraling crisis.

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Story By Waihiga Mwaura
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