MORE than half a million people living with HIV and Aids are in danger as public hospitals countrywide are experiencing shortages of second line anti-retroviral (ARVs) drugs.
Ministry of Health sources said public health institutions, especially the Beatrice Road Infectious Diseases Hospital (popularly known as Nazareth), are experiencing acute shortages of second line drugs to the extent they are now dispatching drugs meant for children to adults as a stopgap measure.
“Adults are being given children’s second line drug syrup because the hospital is running out of drugs,” said an HIV patient who was at the hospital to receive his drugs for this month.
Zimbabwe HIV and Aids Activist Union (Zhaau) vice president Stanley Takaona said the government has put its people on death row by failing to avail the life-saving drugs.
“This is surprising because recently we went for a community monitoring project in Mashonaland Central and what we saw was shocking,” Takaona said.
“In Mashonaland Central, children are being given medication meant for adults, the opposite of what is happening at Nazareth,” he said.
“Many people will be in the rural areas during the Christmas holidays so they collect drugs in advance thus increasing pressure on public health institutions. There is need for planning in advance because we experience this problem every December.”
In 2012 Zimbabwe switched to Tenofovir, a new ARV regimen following guidelines released by the World Health Organisations. The new drug is said to have less side effects compared to Stalanev which government has been prescribing to all HIV patients.
However, since the introduction of the new drugs there has been a decline in the supply of ARVs in all public institutions leading to patients getting one week’s supply instead of two months’ stock, or are at times given old drugs that have serious side effects.
So acute is the situation that patients are now being forced to switch to drug combinations, something which experts say compromises their health.
According to experts, the mixing of drugs leads to patients becoming drug resistant which leads to complications and possibly death.
Aids and Tuberculosis Unit director Owen Mugurungi said he was not aware of shortages at Nazareth hospital.
“We are not aware of that issue. We will wait for the report to come to us but the country has enough drugs,” Mugurungi said.
Earlier this year government approached the United Nations Development Programme to help ease the drug shortages through the Global Fund.