The government of Kenya and the American Embassy will form a joint committee to break the ARVs deadlock stuck at the port of Mombasa.
The consignment is yet to be released despite reports by the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority that the consignment had been released and was to be received at the Nairobi Supply Chain Stores last week.
The consignment has been stuck at the port since January over a tax and distribution row with the government saying there is very little that is known about Chemonics, the private firm through which USAID shipped the drugs.
The government has said the initial impasse over tax arose as a result of the use of the private firm.
Drugs sent into the country through KEMSA are always tax except, but in this case, the Treasury imposed a Sh90 million tax based on the fact that they were coming in through the private entity.
“USAID came and told us they are concerned about KEMSA and therefore they want to bring the drugs themselves and we have no problem if USAID itself is the one bringing drugs,” health CS Mutahi Kagwe said.
“The problem arose when there was introduced without any information to anybody a company by the name of Chemonics and eventually we bowed to pressure and Treasury agreed to pay the taxes because somebody has to pay the taxes, the goal post shifted,” he added.
The CS has however acknowledged that everything needs to be done to ensure that the national drugs supplier is restructured to instil the trust Kenyans and donors had in it.
The country is also banking on local manufacture of ARVs to reduce over-reliance on donors, something that has led to delays in deliveries and suffering by many patients.
Plans have been underway to ensure that the Kenyan Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Company Universal Corporation Ltd produces ARVs with strict standards put in place by the World Health Organization.
Local producers find it difficult to get orders for ARVs because Global Fund and the US Presidential Emergency Fund for Aids Relief are the main financiers and prefer to source cheaply from India.
“We have to be realistic and say to ourselves that this is a problem and we need to resolve it together. Ultimately a nation cannot continue to be reliant on foreigners for its sick. We have got to make the necessary sacrifices as a country to ensure that medication for our people is made here locally,” he added.
Kenya spends about Sh38 billion annually on HIV treatments at about Sh1,800 per patient per month.
“As a country we have to come to terms with this and say if we do not put our house in order and supply drugs to our people we will always be blackmailed and ransomed to do exactly what foreigners what us to do.”