Commercial sex workers took to the streets of Mombasa, Kenya’s oldest town in the coastal region, to protest against the shortage of antiretroviral drugs (ARV).
HIV-positive individuals joined them to force the government to address the inadequate supply of the drug in the country, which puts the lives of 1.5 million people at risk.
“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?” said the director of Nkoko Iju Africa, a sex workers organization, Marylynne Laini.
The enraged protesters carried placards written ‘ARVs is my life’, ‘ARVs is my constitution’, ‘prevent coronavirus not ARVs, etc.
Kenya has been experiencing an acute shortage of ARVs after the USAID, the chief supplier, stopped supplying the drug through Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (Kemsa), citing mismanagement and corruption.
As a result, 1 billion doses of ARVs have been stuck at Mombasa Port. USAID demanded to use Chemonics International to procure and supply ARVs to Kenyans, a move that the government of Kenya vehemently opposed.
The country’s Health Cabinet Secretary disclosed they had reached an agreement with the USAID, and the doses are expected to reach patients this week.