PITCH partners in Kenya raise alert on shortage of crucial drug for PLHIV

By PITCH partner AYARHEP in Kenya 

Over the past few months, AYARHEP noticed a shortage of Septrin (vital antibiotic for PLHIV with low CD4 count) in our facilities in Kenya, with public facilities being affected most and people being forced to buy it. This should not be the case since it is the responsibility of the county government to procure them. 

Unlike antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) that disrupt the reproduction of the HIV virus, Septrin is a combination antibiotic that fights against opportunistic infections that those living with HIV are vulnerable to until their viral load is made low. Limited supply of Septrin in our facilities has caused anxiousness and fear among people living with HIV, especially among young people. This had led to opportunistic infections, ranging from simple to complicated life-threatening, and their management can be quite expensive and difficult. Our fear is that limited availability of Septrin will weaken the immunity of many people living with HIV. Septrin is a first-line regimen for many other conditions for people who do not live with HIV. Therefore, such a prolonged stock-out does not only affect people living with HIV, but all people who require Septrin for their medical conditions. 

AYARHEP organized Twitter chats and Facebook live sessions to mobilize young people to hold leaders accountable for this shortage. The campaign engaged 30 peer educators to conduct a Twitter campaign using the hashtag #OurLivesAtRisk. The campaign targeted the Ministry of Health and National AIDS and STIs Control program (NASCOP). 

The campaign was very successful and was able to reach over 451,562 people on Twitter. The Ministry of Health was at first denying the issues of lack of Septrin in our facilities, but after the online campaigns gained momentum NASCOP reached out to the National Network of People Living with HIV in Kenya (NEPHAK) and acknowledged the issue, and promised to ensure that stocks of Septrin are available in all facilities by July 2020. 

This success would not have been possible without the support of the public that enabled us to trend during our Twitter chat. Also contributing to this campaign was financial support from the PITCH partnership and the Kenya Sexual Reproductive Health Alliance, and other organizations like Most At Risk Young Mothers and Teenage Girls Living with HIV Initiative (MOYOTE), Women Fighting AIDS in Kenya (WOFAK) and Network of People living with HIV in Kenya (NEPHAK) who have been part and parcel of our campaigns.

Together, we will continue to ensure we improve the HIV response here in Kenya, and hold our Government accountable in case Septrin is not available in our facilities by July 2020 as promised. 

As AYARHEP and as a community of people living with HIV, NASCOP’s promise not only speaks gives us hope, but also reminds us that we are instrumental in bettering the HIV response here in Kenya and ensuring there is easy access to all HIV services and commodities in our comprehensive care centres. 


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