Stopgap measures ease ARV crisis

THE acute shortages of anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) at public health institutions experienced last month have slightly eased after the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) brought in drugs which will help more than half a million people living with HIV and Aids for the next two months.

Elias Mambo

Last month Zimbabwe ran out of the essential drugs, compromising the lives of millions of people who were forced to buy them from private pharmacies.

However, the UNDP prevented a crisis by supplying 5 294 packs on September 16 with sources at the national pharmacy claiming the drugs in stock can now last for two months (October and November).

“We got the drugs, mostly the Abacavir 300mg tablets that are now being used as second line drug treatment for patients who have failed to respond to the first line treatment option,” said the source.

“Abacavir has been in short supply throughout the country with people being asked to buy from private pharmacies.”

Zimbabwe HIV/Aids Activist Union vice-president Stanley Takaona has called on government to be pro-active and not to react to a crisis.

“This has taught our government a lesson that it should be pro-active when dealing with issues of people’s lives,” Takaona said. “Last month’s crisis placed millions of people on the death penalty and we hope this time around those responsible for availing drugs will not react, but act in advance.”

The Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria last week released a grant of more than US$21 million to improve access to treatment for people living with HIV and Aids in Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe is one of the beneficiaries of Global Fund and has grants supporting HIV, tuberclosis and malaria programmes under the hospice of the Ministry of Health and Child Care.

The Global Fund has since 2002 approved US$628 million to fight the three diseases in Zimbabwe which has been used to purchase ARVs, mosquito nets and TB medication.

Global Fund Zimbabwe co-ordinator Rangarirai Chiteure said the fund had disbursed about US$14,7 million to procure ARVs for January to June 2014.

Chiteure also said the Global Fund portfolio manager for Zimbabwe Perry Mwangala would visit the country while a board member from the donor constituency (Sweden) will also be in the country next week.
Zimbabwe switched to Tenofovir, a new ARV regimen that has lesser side effects compared to Stalanev, which was being prescribed to all HIV patients following recommendations by the World Health Organisation.

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