By Mike Mwaniki
The Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS) has earned accolades for being a successful principal recipient of a multi-million shilling HIV grant which aims at reducing new HIV infections and Aids-related cases and deaths among key populations. The HIV grant entitled “The road towards an HIV free society”, is based on the ratings of the grant whose total amount is Sh6.7 billion, according to the latest Global Fund’s grant performance report updated in August 2017.
The report attributes the success of the HIV grant by the Society to supportive leadership, semi autonomy in the management of the grant, support provided to their sub-recipients (SRs) as well as a good tracking system for activities and expenditure data. “Kenya Red Cross has developed and sustained a good track record, obtaining ratings of either A2 (meeting expectations) or A1 (exceeding expectations) for each period since the performance of the grant was first rated in 2012,” the report notes.
The HIV grant targets key populations such as sex-workers and their clients, men who have sex with men (MSM), people who inject drugs (PWID), persons living with and affected by HIV and Aids and pregnant women. Speaking to Health Business Magazine, the National Aids and STI Control Programme (NASCOP) Head, Dr. Kigen Bartilol observed that key populations contribute 30 per cent of new HIV infections in Kenya.
He said the Health Ministry has been providing medically assisted treatment since 2014 as a key biomedical intervention towards people who inject drugs with over 2,000 persons benefiting. “In addition, over 176,314 FSW (132 per cent) in 33 counties, 44,250 MSM (245 per cent) in 29 counties and 19,348 PWID (106 per cent) in 16 counties have benefited from HIV prevention, care and treatment services,” Dr. Bartilol noted.
Kenya, the NASCOP head observed, is considered one of the most progressive countries in this area. The range of services include testing, condoms provision and use of methadone for those using drugs among others. Dr. Bartilol said that although the National HIV prevalence rate has declined to 5.6 per cent from the previous high of 14 per cent in the 1990s, Kenya still experiences about 71,000 new HIV infections annually.
“About 41 per cent, are occurring among adolescents aged between 15 to 25 years,” revealed the medic. Dr. Bartilol appealed to those who have not undergone testing to do so saying the HIV testing is the main entry to accessing prevention, care and treatment interventions. “We are now recommending life-saving antiretroviral treatment for all people living with HIV in a programme we have dubbed Anza Sasa.”
“This will enable those who are infected to access newer, safer, efficacious and well-tolerated ARVs formulations that will achieve viral suppression in a much shorter time,” Dr. Bartilol explained. According to the report, the KRCS was chosen as principal recipient after the Global Fund’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) audited all Global Fund grants to Kenya, some of which were implemented by government PRs and others by NGO PRs.
“The audit, which covered over Sh20 billion in disbursements, detailed instances of financial mismanagement and poor selection of civil society organisations acting as SRs ‘without sufficient capacity to implement, report or absorb funds.” Kenya Red Cross secretary general, Dr Abbas Gullet, explained his organisation proactively designed systems and structures to mitigate the risks of corruption and mismanagement while avoiding the pitfalls of low absorption of funds.
“(We) emphasised on the values of service to beneficiaries, integrity, as well as accountability to the last dollar and efficiency of the team selected to run the grant,” Dr Gullet asserts.