Shortage of antiretroviral drugs for HIV patients in Kenya

People living with HIV and AIDS in Kenya say they may die from a shortage of antiretroviral drugs after the government decided to impose taxes on the life-saving drugs.

Nationwide protests took place in major cities in Kenya this week calling on the government to release drugs held in bonded warehouses.

“We cannot remain silent and watch this population languish just because they cannot get medicine that is lying somewhere,” said Boniface Ogutu Akach, a human rights activist who leads dozens of demonstrators in the city of Kisumu.

Protesters wore T-shirts and posters with slogans such as “A sick nation is a dead nation”, “killer government” and “release ARVs”.

Erick Okioma, 57, is HIV positive, a widower and the father of four children.

“ARV drugs for 1.5 million people in counties are running out dangerously,” said Okoma, “soon hundreds or thousands of them could die because we are dependent on these drugs.”

Kenya receives ARVs as donations from around the world, including from organizations such as the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

This year, the Kenyan tax and finance authorities asked donors to pay taxes on these donated drugs, which they have since declined.

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