State in talks with local firms to produce ARVs

Tuesday, November 30th, 2021 09:19 |
Health Principal Secretary Susan Mochache at past event. Photo/PD/FILE

Dwindling donor support for procurement of anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) has forced the country to find ways of producing HIV-related commodities locally.

Health Principal Secretary Susan Mochache said this yesterday when she received some 1,800 packs of Tenofovir, Lamivudine and Dolutegravir (TLD) from Universal Corporation Limited (UCL), one of the local manufacturers of ARVs that are certified by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

This, she said, puts the country in a vantage position to embark on massive production of ARVs as the country looks to be self-reliant.

“The government is pursuing partnership with local manufacturers for contract manufacturing of HIV related commodities including ARVs. This will ensure self-reliance as we promote our economy and improve livelihoods,” she said at Afya House in Nairobi yesterday.

Kenya faces serious donor dependency in several key sub-sectors of its health system despite transitioning from low to middle-income status in 2014.

External financing makes up more than half of all funding for immunisations, tuberculosis (TB) and HIV, where for every dollar spent by the government on immunisations, TB and HIV, donors spend 3.3, 2.8 and 1.7 additional dollars respectively.

According to Mochache, the Ministry is gradually increasing funds allocated annually for the procurement of HIV commodities.

Preferential treatment

“In addition, we are investing in research and innovation to facilitate evidence-based and focused interventions which will accelerate the achievement of Universal Health Coverage,” she stated and applauded UCL for investing in manufacturing the life-saving drugs.

“We are proud to be associated with this local investment and commit to ensuring that they get preference in procurement funded by the GoK in line with the national motto for ‘Buy Kenya, Build Kenya,” she said flanked by the company’s managing director Perviz Dhanani.

Three weeks ago, various groups representing people living with the disease marched on the streets of Nairobi to the Ministry of Health and Office of the President protesting the shortage of HIV testing kits and accused the government of dragging its feet in addressing the matter.

Network of People Living with HIV and Aids in Kenya (Nephak) executive director, Nelson Otwoma told People Daily, the crisis was critical.

“This issue of testing kits is unending. We don’t know what to do now that we held talks with the Ministry of Health officials two weeks ago and all seemed to be going on well as we were promised the issue will be addressed soon,” he said expressing concern that nothing has so far been done, or even, said.

The shortage includes filter papers for testing blood samples.
Otwoma said HIV testing was not happening in most public health facilities in the country.

This, with the recently reported acute shortage of condoms, he said, literally means that people are being infected, but unfortunately may not know their status.

Safeguard gains

However, yesterday Mochache said the government is keen not to let the gains made in the fight against HIV go down the drain.

“Kenya has made significant progress in the fight against HIV and is on course towards achieving the universal UNAIDS targets of 95 per cent of all people living with HIV will know their status; 95 per cent of all people living with HIV will receive antiretroviral therapy and 95 per cent of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression by 2030,” she noted.

Currently, 1.5 million People are Living with HIV in Kenya out of which, 1.2 million are currently on ARVs. She said, for the government to align to the WHO guidelines, the Ministry of Health has prioritised optimisation of ARV regimens to ensure people living with HIV receive the best medicine available most efficiently and cost-effectively.

“Newer agents such as TLD which we are receiving today, have high potency, low toxicity and fewer drug-to-drug interactions,” Mochache pointed out.

To improve access to this life-saving medication, she said the Ministry in collaboration with multiple stakeholders procures and distributes them at no cost to the patients.

More on Health