Thandeka Moyo, Health Reporter
SOME people living with HIV in Bulawayo are failing to access antiretroviral (ARV) drugs due to shortages in the city blamed on distribution inefficiencies as Government says the country has adequate supplies.
The ARVs shortage in Bulawayo has led to those on Line Two regimen — a stronger and expensive version of ARVs — to be sent back home as there are no stocks for the medication.
Those who find some regimens in stock are getting a week’s supply of the life saving medication instead of the usual three months’ supply.
In an interview, a local HIV activist, Mr Dumisani Nkomo, said he is on Line Two and was one of the affected people.
“At first we thought it was an error but it is now evident that we no longer have enough ARVs for HIV positive members of the public. I for one am on Line 2 but during my last visit, I was told that I had to take something else while waiting for supplies which means we may easily default to Line 3,” said Mr Nkomo.
“We feel like someone is gambling with our lives and it is important that whosoever is responsible is aware that most HIV positive people did not apply for this but were victims of abuse, infidelity and many other reasons.”
He said it was important for Government to ensure there are always enough supplies so that people do not relapse.
“We are doing well in terms of adhering and we wish that by next year most of us would have achieved viral suppression. This will only be possible if we have constant access to medication,” said Mr Nkomo.
Ministry of Health and Child Care public relations officer Mr Donald Mujiri said although nationally there is no shortage, distribution disruptions could be causing problems in some areas.
“The permanent secretary Dr Agnes Mahomva recently confirmed in a Press conference that we have enough ARV stocks in the country. However, we cannot rule out the fact that due to delays in deliveries by the National Pharmaceutical Company of Zimbabwe (NatPharm), other institutions could be affected” said Mr Mujiri.
Community Working Group on Health director Mr Itai Rusike said ARV shortages may derail efforts to achieve the 90/90/90 global Aids targets.
The targets seek to ensure that by next year, 90 percent of all people living with HIV know their status, 90 percent of people diagnosed with HIV infection will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy and that 90 percent of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression.
“There are general complaints of ART shortages right across the country. We are having repeated scenarios where people are getting refills for a week or two or shorter periods compared to supplies for three months. This in turn increases their out of pocket costs in bus fares as they will have to visit the health facility more frequently to collect their medication given the hard economic environment we are living in,” said Mr Rusike.
“The CWGH is also concerned that the El Nino induced drought might reverse all the gains Zimbabwe had made over the years as food insecurities have serious repercussions on people living with HIV/Aids. We therefore urge Government to ensure that people living with HIV have enough food to enable them to take their medication.” — @thamamoe