26 March 2011

Kenya: ARV Shortage Putting Lives of HIV Patients On the Line

There is a shortage of life-prolonging anti-retroviral drugs despite repeated government reassurances, a civil society group said yesterday.

The group accused the government of "deep denial" saying thousands of HIV positive patients cannot access ARVs in public hospitals."Some of us are being told the CD4 machines are not working or the reagents are not available," said Nelson Otuoma, head of the National Empowerment Network of People Living (Nephak).

The group said only less than 400,000 Kenyans are on ARVs, out of more than estimated 1.4 million people living with Aids, and over 100,000 infected every year.

Otuoma, who yesterday led a group of protesters to the Ministry of Health headquarters, complained that more than 20 years since the first HIV case was reported in Kenya, donors still fund 85 per cent of all treatment. "This is tying lives of HIV positive people to projects. If the project ends, then your life ends," he said.

The protesters asked the government to create a trust fund for HIV. Nephak said it will collect 1.4 million signatures, representing all HIV positive people, to compel the government to create this fund.

They also said there was a shortage of condoms in country despite public denials by the National Aids and STI Control Programme (Nascop)."We tell Nascop there are no condoms and they pull a box and say here they are. We cannot tell somebody in Busia anytime they have sex in the evening to rush for condoms in Nairobi," Otuoma said.

Minister for Public Health Beth Mugo however said there was enough money for ARVs and HIV prevention until 2015. She said most of the money was from the US Presidential Emergency Fund for Aids Relief, Global Fund and the Clinton Initiative. The Kenyan government for the first time last year provided Sh900 million for ARVs.

She added that the ministry planned to put at least 80 per cent of all people living with HIV on antiretroviral treatment by 2015.

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