Voluntary counseling and testing centers around Kenya are turning people away due to a shortage of HIV testing kits after the recall in December of more than one million faulty HIV tests.
“We have had a shortage of the test kits for the past month and we have had to turn away patients. There are serious gaps with the supply chain and this has led to constant shortages of these crucial commodities,” said John Sankok, director of the Christian Missionaries Fellowship, which runs several health clinics in the Rift Valley Province’s Narok South District.
“We have had to prioritize and use the kits available for testing expectant mothers, because this is very crucial,” he added.
In November, the UN World Health Organization removed the Standard Diagnostics Bioline® HIV 1/2 3.0 Rapid HIV Test Kit from its list of approved rapid test kits with immediate effect; the alert was issued after Bioline failed quality assurance tests.
The Kenyan government has since withdrawn it; an estimated one million kits were in circulation at the time of the recall, about one-tenth of all those available in the country; Tanzania has also banned the tests.
Bioline was used as a confirmatory test, the second conducted during standard HIV testing, which uses three tests – an initial screening test, a confirmatory test and if there is a discrepancy, a third, tie-breaker test.
As a result of the recall, Unigold, the brand used in Kenya as a tie-breaker, now replaces Bioline as the confirmatory test, and the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) test – which requires a blood sample be sent to a laboratory and takes significantly longer than the rapid tests – becomes the tie-breaker. A brand known as Determine retains its place as the official screening test.
Senior government officials blamed the shortage on congestion at the Mombasa port.
“There have been problems with the port due to slow clearance of cargo occasioned by congestion and this has led to delays in distributing Unigold,” said Nicholas Muraguri, head of the National AIDS and Sexually transmitted infections Control Programme. “We, however, expect things to normalize by the end of this month.”
Read more of the story here at the IRIN news service:
KENYA: Shortage of HIV test kits raises concerns