Govt allays ARVs shortage fears
Munyaradzi Musiiwa, Midlands Bureau
The Government has allayed fears of possible shortages of anti-retroviral (ARVs) treatment drugs in public health institutions due to acute shortage of foreign currency to make orders with international suppliers.
Health and Child Care Minister Dr David Parirenyatwa said the country had adequate stocks for both first and second line anti-retroviral treatment drugs.
In an interview during the launch of the cervical cancer prevention and control strategic plan for 2017–2020 in Gweru on Friday last week, Dr Parirenyatwa said the country had adequate stocks of ARVs for both first and second line treatments.
“We are safe in terms of ARVs,” he said. “We have enough stocks both for first line and second line patients. We are making sure that we stock as we get more and more diagnoses.
“We also need to put more money on the second line. We used to produce our own ARVs here, but the types of ARVs have changed and there are new guidelines for producing ARVs.
“We have also realised that for now it is cheaper for us to import than to produce locally. However, it is an advantage for us to produce ARVs and other drugs locally.”
Information gathered by our Harare Bureau showed that HIV positive people who are taking abacavir — a second line ARV drug — are being given a week’s supply, instead of the traditional three months, because of the dwindled stocks.
Abacavir is one of the commonly used ARVs for management of people who would have failed or reacted to first line drugs.
This raised suspicion that the country could have been hit by a shortage of antiretroviral drugs in public health institutions, raising fears of drug interruptions among people taking the life-saving treatment should the situation continue.
National Aids Council (Nac) operations director Mr Raymond Yekeye previously said that they had budgeted $20 million for procurement of drugs since the beginning of the year, but they had not yet been allocated the foreign currency to proceed with the orders.
“We have not made any procurement since the beginning of the year because we do not have the foreign currency to do so,” he said.
“Normally, we give a tender to suppliers and give them delivery schedules.
“Deliveries would then be done as per schedule, but since the beginning of the year, we have not yet made any procurement.”
Nac, through the Aids Levy, procures all second line drugs as they are not catered for under any funding from development partners.