Mombasa Sex Workers Hit The Streets Over ARV Shortage

Commercial sex workers and HIV-positive people in Mombasa have taken to the streets to demand that the government address the country’s antiretroviral drug (ARV) shortage.

Taking to the streets of Mombasa in protest, they claimed that the shortage has made thousands vulnerable to infections while leaving others severely sick and at risk of death.

According to sex workers, their business has increased as a result of the recent lockdown, but more people are being faced with the risk of becoming infected by HIV if the ARV issue is not resolved.

“How many commercial sex workers are HIV positive? If the workers had suppressed the virus with the drugs what will happen? Won’t they infect other people’s husbands?” Marylynne Laini, the director of Nkoko Iju Africa- a sex workers organization- posed.

The protests come just a day after Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe informed the Senate Health Committee that a diplomatic dissension that had caused the drug shortage had been resolved.

According to CS Mutahi, the USAID had released the drug shipment that had been stuck at the port; it’s now expected to reach patients during the week.

The Health CS stated that the USAID had proposed using a US-based company called Chemonics International to procure and supply ARVs to Kenyans due to “trust issues” with the national medical supplies body, Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (KEMSA).

He claims, however, that they have reached an agreement with USAID that will include, among other things, the strengthening of systems at KEMSA.

CS Kagwe stated that the government would not allow USAID to use Chemonics to supply ARVs because the government did not have enough information on the company.

He also emphasized the need for the country to budget for its own ARVs rather than relying on donors.

Original article was posted on Citizen TV website