Nairobi, Kenya — Kenya has secured over Sh136 million from the Global Fund to implement a three year pilot project where the government will provide Intravenous Drug Users (IDUs) with needles and syringes.
This is part of a Sh41 billion grant for the round 10 of the funds for HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria approved for Kenya, the single largest approval for any country since 2002.
Global Fund Kenya Coordinating Mechanism Secretariat Coordinator Peter Cherutich said the project to be done in at the Coast and Nairobi regions aims to set up 25 pilot sites in the two regions.
"If indeed it is feasible, it's practical that we can provide needles through the exchange programmes then we will be asking for more resources from other partners to make sure that we do that and expand work on injecting drug users," Cherutich told Capital FM News.
He however said it could take three to six months to start the pilot project since the government was still in negotiation with the various partners on how to roll out the project.
"We have to engage the provincial administration, religious leaders and we have also to engage the community leaders and the political leaders so that there is an understanding that as a country we have an obligation to make sure that we protect our people from drug use but you also have an obligation to protect those who are using drugs from getting HIV," Cherutich who is also the National AIDS and STI Control Programme (NASCOP) Deputy Director said.
But, since the government expressed its intention last month to provide free needles and syringes for IDUs there has been great opposition with religious leaders saying it would promote drug use in the country.
The Christians and Muslims leaders have instead advocated for the establishment of more rehabilitation centres for drug addicts.
But the proponents of the programme argue that Intravenous Drug Users use unsafe techniques which include needle-sharing and flash blood where drug users share a syringe that has blood from another drug user to act as the drug and this increases the risk of contracting HIV/AIDS.
Meanwhile, Cherutich has admitted to underperformance in earlier years of implementation of the Global Fund.
He however said the secretariat which is responsible for coordinating, monitoring, evaluating and supporting the implementation of the grants was now dealing with the gaps which had led to slow implementation of the funds.
"The systems have improved. Right now at the country coordinating mechanism, you have to declare conflict of interest so that if you are sitting there as a member of the country coordinating mechanism, then it's very clear that that position does not create a situation where you provide undue advantage to the organisation that you lead," he said.
Kenya started receiving the funds in 2002. Between 2002 and 2010, the Global Fund approved Sh32.2 billion for Kenya out of which the country has received Sh17.5 billion.
This is because the country has been slow in implementing programmes and the Global Fund releases the grant in phases based on performance rating.
"When you apply for the money to be disbursed, sometimes the unit costs change and prices come down, so you ask for less money than you actually were approved for. So it's not that we are losing," Cherutich explained.
He also said the secretariat now had a clear understanding of how the Global Fund worked and can provide sufficient oversight.
"We have what we call a dash board. There is an allowable time from when the grant is signed to the time the Treasury gets that money and usually it is between three to six months so we have committed all of us to work within those timeframes and that is the only way we can get money flowing from Geneva to the Treasury to the Ministries of Health and eventually now to implementation," he explained.