Relief for patients living with HIV/AIDS in Kenya as US, Kenya end ARVs stalemate

KENYA – National Aids Control Council (NACC) CEO Ruth Masha has said the committee convened by the council held a series of meetings with US representatives where all outstanding issues have been resolved.

This comes even as ARVs consignment that arrived into the country in January continues to be held at the Mombasa port.

The resolutions include the signing of a framework and implementation letter to facilitate tax and fee waivers, and distribution of age USAID purchased commodities,” Masha said in a statement.

Masha appreciated the long-standing partnership with the US government and said Kenya will continue to work with all stakeholders to address gaps and challenges in the HIV response including the issues affecting the commodities supply chain.

The council looks forward to continued access to safer and efface-us drugs by people lining with HIV and the resumption of dispensation of multiple months supply of ARV drugs as guided by differentiated service delivery model developed by NASCOP,” she added.

Despite solving the tax issues that saw the consignment held at the port from January, the standoff now involved distribution battles, with USAID failing to release the drugs.

Patients have in the past demanded that the be drugs released immediately to credible organisations that are operating in the country such as NGOs and faith based organisations to distribute them.

When the drugs arrived in Kenya on January 18, 2021, the KRA demanded Sh90 million tax because they were brought in by a private company, called Chemonics.

For government-to-government donations to be tax-exempt, they must be channeled through the relevant government institutions such as Kemsa.

KRA explained that imports through private companies are subject to the normal clearance procedures which involve inspection at the port by the Kenya Bureau of Standards and import duties, including the railway development levy.

In April, KRA reluctantly waived Sh45 million after which USAID released some laboratory diagnostics but held on to the more critical ARVs.

USAID and the National Empowerment Network of People Living with HIV and Aids in Kenya (Nephak) were listed as interested parties.

Since September 2015, USAID and Kemsa have had a contract for procurement, warehousing and distribution of donations to Kenya. That contract ended on September 25, 2020 but was extended to December 24 last year.

Before the expiry of the contract, USAID engaged Chemonics to procure and import consignments for Kenya, claiming Kemsa was riddled with corruption.

However, on April 9, 2021, MPs said this was a lame excuse, noting that the privately owned American firm, Chemonics, stands blacklisted in Nigeria for Sh324 million financial fraud.

Global Fund says Chemonics colluded with its sub-contractor, Zenith Carex, to defraud its programmes in Nigeria of Sh324 million by inflating invoices for distributing commodities to warehouses and health facilities.

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