ARV stock out protest in Kenya prompts action from government

ARV stock out protest in Kenya prompts action from government

Last Tuesday a massive civil society protest took place in Kenya to force government to act on the alarming ARV and HIV commodities stock outs in the country. A day later the Kenyan government committed to ensuring availability in two weeks’ time. Jackie Okinyi of Women Fighting AIDS in Kenya (WOFAK) played a key role in mobilisation for the protest and will closely monitor the follow up of this commitment.

The press statement from the Ministry of Health released yesterday commits to avail ARVs and other commodities to immediately stop the bi-weekly dispensing and embrace monthly dispensing instead. According to government, the ARVs available can take people through the coming two weeks.

As WOFAK we co-initiated the protest together with multiple civil society organisations including the Network of People living with HIV and AIDS in Kenya (NEPHAK) and AIDS Healthcare Foundation. In addition, an open letter to president Uhuru Kenyatta, endorsed by 22 civil society organisations, was published in the Daily Nation as an appeal to the Head of State to solve the issue. “I’m happy that our protest has made things start moving, which is urgently needed”, says Jackie.

Protesters in front of the Ministry of Health building
Protesters have reached the building of the Ministry of Health
Protesters in front of the Ministry of Health building
Protesters have reached the building of the Ministry of Health

Paediatric DTG expiring on the shelves

“It is terrible”, says Jackie. “We see children living with HIV fall sick and even die, because of the ARV stock outs.” According to Kenyan treatment policy, all children living with HIV need viral load testing before they can transition to Dolutegravir (DTG) for children. However, lack of viral load testing kits makes the roll out of paediatric DTG impossible. Jackie: “We are therefore worried the DTG for children might even expire on the shelves so children don’t receive this newly available child-friendly treatment.”

 

Three people holding up protest displays
Three people holding up displays with activist messages
Three people holding up protest displays
Three people holding up displays with activist messages

Country in crisis

WOFAK implements INUKA project in Homa Bay that identifies children in need of but not yet in HIV care, and support them to enroll in HIV care. Jackie: “As project coordinator of INUKA, this week I had a meeting with the National AIDS Control Council representative of Homa Bay County and Director Health (Preventive and Curative) of the Ministry of Health. From our meeting, it's evident that there's an alarming shortage of ARVs since the County relies on supplies from the national government. The Director mentioned that 'their stores are running dry' and they are not sure how many more children can access PCR testing for Early Infant Diagnosis. He mentioned that they are engaging other partners, such as the Center for Disease Prevention and Control  and are looking into ways through which the County can be supported to solve this crisis.

 

 

A display with activist outing
"Women living with HIV need paediatric medication for their children now! - says WOFAK"
A display with activist outing
"Women living with HIV need paediatric medication for their children now! - says WOFAK"

Empty promises?

Will the government live up to its commitment? “Not easy to tell", Jackie thinks. "The government did commit to share the email correspondences between them and the suppliers with the civil society organisations to show us the progress in solving the stock outs. We will closely monitor what will happen in the next two weeks and are not afraid to raise our voices again, on behalf of all children and people living with HIV in Kenya."

 

 

 

Jackie Okinyi
Jackie Okinyi of Women Fighting AIDS in Kenya (WOFAK)
Jackie Okinyi
Jackie Okinyi of Women Fighting AIDS in Kenya (WOFAK)

Community leadership

Aidsfonds supports our partner WOFAK and other civil society organisations in holding the Kenyan government accountable for providing essential and quality testing, treatment and care services for all people living with HIV, including the youngest children who cannot raise their voice themselves yet.

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