Doreen Moraa Moracha, one of the young people living with HIV in Kenya, has raised alarm over shortage of antiretrovirals (ARVs) in the country, a drug key in the fight against the virus.
In what points to devastating consequences due to the limited supply of the drugs, Moraa, who has been leading HIV/AIDs awareness campaigns for some time now, said in a tweet on Tuesday morning that people on the raltegravir (DTG) drug are now being given one month or two weeks dosage from the previous six months dispensing.
“Such scenarios make me hopeless because how can we fight HIV without ARVs? How are we going from 6 months dispensing of ARVs to 2 weeks?” she posed.
There is shortage of ARVs in Kenya 🥺🥲😡people on the DTG regimen are now being given 1 month or 2 weeks dosage such scenarios make me hopeless because how can we fight HIV without ARVs? How are we going from 6 months dispensing of ARVs to 2 weeks?????🙆♀️🙆♀️🙆♀️ pic.twitter.com/woMVBBM7kg
— Doreen Moraa Moracha (@D_Moraa) March 23, 2021
Based on new evidence assessing benefits and risks, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends the use of DTG as the preferred first-line and second-line treatment for all populations, including pregnant women and those of childbearing potential.
The 28-year-old, who was born with HIV, is among the few people in the country who have openly declared their HIV/AIDs status and are creating awareness through social media and other forums to fight HIV-related stigma.
Her remarks come months after the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) warned of potential HIV drug shortages due to higher costs linked to lockdowns and COVID-19 border closures.
In a report released in July last year, the agency urged the world and manufacturers to take pre-emptive action saying the production of generic antiretroviral drugs and their distribution were threatened.
The agency warned that the crisis would put millions of people at risk — particularly in developing countries — if they go without treatment, both to themselves and others from an increased chance of HIV transmission.
“It is vital that countries urgently make plans now to mitigate the possibility and impacts of higher costs and reduced availability of antiretroviral medicines,” said Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of UNAIDS.
“I call on countries and buyers of HIV medicines to act swiftly in order to ensure that everyone who is currently on treatment continues to be on it, saving lives and stopping new HIV infections.”
Some of the factors linked to the shortage include increased manufacturing and transport costs, the need to find new sources of key pharmaceutical ingredients and currency fluctuations caused by the economic shock of COVID-19.
UNAIDS said that a 10–25 per cent increase in these costs could make the final cost of exported antiretroviral medicines from India alone between $100 and $225 million a year more expensive than before.
Kenya has the joint third-largest HIV epidemic in the world (alongside Tanzania) with 1.6 million people living with HIV in 2018. Out of the population, 1.2 million are said to be on ARVs.
As of 2018, 69 per cent of adults living with HIV in Kenya were accessing treatment. However, treatment coverage among children aged under 15 was lower, at 61 per cent.