By DANN OKOTH
Kenya may get up to $500 million in unspent HIV and Aids funding after all if negotiations with key partners bear fruit, we can reveal. The Sh42 billion can keep half a million people from dying from Aids-related complications.
The money is part of a record backlog that has been caused by confusion within the Grand Coalition Government, which provides health services through two warring ministries.
There were fears the Government would lose the money, which is provided through the United States President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (Pepfar), following a row over accountability for previous amounts.
Ministry of Health officials met Pepfar officials and Aids activists on Monday in a last ditch effort to secure the country’s allocation as intrigues and uncertainty continued to shroud the Pepfar unspent billions. There are fears the Government may leave most of the money on the table because it cannot get the Medical Services and Public Health ministries to work out how to use it all.
“We met Pepfar and civil society groups to find a common ground on the way forward on how the money being held can be released and used,” said Peter Cherutich, the acting head of National Aids and Sexually Transmitted Infections Control Programme (Nascop) at the Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation.
“Another meeting has been planned next week to iron out the finer details of the funds roll-out.”
Our efforts to contact Pepfar country coordinator Katherine Perry to comment on the matter were fruitless after she failed to respond to our e-mails and phone calls.
Nearly $1.5 billion has accumulated unspent in the US’s global Aids programme financial pipeline. About Sh42 billion of this is allocated to Kenya but has not been disbursed even as people continue to die. It is estimated that Kenya has 1.5 million people living with HIV. Only 500,000 are already receiving life-sustaining HIV treatment. Treatment coverage is even lower for children, currently standing at a mere 34 per cent of those in need.
Kenya faces large gaps in treatment coverage to meet its national target of one million on ARVs by 2015.
Nonetheless, when Pepfar’s Kenya office submitted its proposed work plan for the coming year, US officials in Kenya did not plan to use the billions of unspent shillings to increase the pace of HIV treatment next year.