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Scandal in Health Ministry As Fake HIV Testing Kits Spark Outrage

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Controversy engulfs Kenya’s Ministry of Health as allegations of irregular tender practices and the procurement of fake HIV testing kits surface.

Amid accusations of favoritism and lack of transparency, the integrity of the multi-billion-dollar tender process comes under scrutiny.

Kitutu Chache MP Antony Kibagendi leads the charge, questioning the Ministry’s adherence to procurement procedures.

While the Ministry denies any wrongdoing, concerns persist about potential risks to public health.

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This article delves into the unfolding scandal, highlighting the alleged malpractice’s legal, ethical, and public health implications.

Fake HIV Testing Kits

MP Antony Kibagendi Speaks Out

Kenya’s Ministry of Health faces severe allegations of malpractice in the procurement of HIV testing kits.

Critics claim the multi-billion-dollar tender process was riddled with irregularities, casting doubt on the integrity of the entire operation.

Kitutu Chache MP Antony Kibagendi has voiced concerns about the procurement process.

He asserts that the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (Kemsa) did not advertise the tender, and manufacturers were handpicked by the Health Ministry.

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According to Kibagendi, this breach of protocol hints at a deeper issue of corruption within the ministry.

“The Principal Secretary of Medical Services, Harry Kimtai, needs to clarify the procurement and awarding of the tender. This process did not follow due procedure,” Kibagendi told The Standard.

Ministry of Health Denies Allegations

The Ministry of Health, however, has denied any wrongdoing. PS Harry Kimtai stated that the Ministry used a direct tendering method, which does not require advertising or listing qualified bidders.

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He emphasized that the selection was guided by World Health Organization (WHO) protocols and validated ethical standards.

Controversial Tender Process

The tender, referenced in circular Ref: MOH/ADM/1/1/12 dated August 22, 2023, aims to implement a new HIV testing algorithm.

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This algorithm, requiring three-test processes, is set for site-level implementation by January 2024, overseen by the National Aids and STI Control Program (NASCOP).

Despite these assurances, Kibagendi alleges that certain suppliers were unfairly disqualified.

He also found that a significant portion of the supply was awarded to one company due to influence from top officials at the Ministry and Kemsa.

This has raised questions about the transparency and fairness of the process.

Legal and Ethical Concerns

Following the Ministry’s pre-qualification stage, only three companies were selected: Trinity Biotech Manufacturing Ltd, SD Biosensor Inc, and Guangzhou Wondfo Biotech Co., Ltd.

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This decision faced legal challenges from previous suppliers, further complicating the situation.

Kibagendi also accused the Ministry of failing to apply WHO standards in suitability tests and conducting inadequate background checks on the chosen companies.

This oversight, he claims, puts Kenyan lives at risk due to potentially unreliable testing kits.

Public Health at Risk

These concerns are not unfounded. Faulty HIV testing kits can lead to false negatives or positives, resulting in the virus’s unwitting spread or causing unnecessary trauma to individuals.

The petition against the procurement aims to prevent Kemsa from acquiring these substandard kits. These are not only more expensive but also have a higher invalidity rate.

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Kenya’s progress in reducing HIV/AIDS prevalence is under threat due to these questionable procurement practices.

Ensuring the use of accurate and reliable HIV testing kits is crucial for public health and continuing the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Ministry’s Defense

PS Kimtai defended the Ministry’s actions, stating that the selection process was in line with WHO recommendations.

He emphasized that Kenya is one of ten countries transitioning to a three-test algorithm to ensure more accurate results.

“We are committed to reducing HIV cases. The kits meet WHO standards, and we will stop supply if their quality is compromised,” Kimtai assured.

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Kemsa’s Role

Kemsa CEO Dr. Andrew Mulwa distanced the organization from the dispute, stating that the testing algorithm is a Ministry policy, not influenced by Kemsa.

He reaffirmed that the safety and efficacy of the kits are under the Ministry’s purview.

Wrapping Up

Kenya has made significant strides in combating HIV/AIDS, but these gains are at risk due to alleged procurement irregularities.

The Ministry of Health must uphold its commitment to public health by ensuring transparency and adherence to international standards in its procurement processes.

The lives and well-being of millions of Kenyans depend on it.

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