Over a week ago, there were reports that the country was running out of some second-line HIV treatment drugs, a development that sparked speculation and fear that we were on the verge of a health crisis.
The government has been at pains to explain that this was not the case and authorities were only rationing the supply of the drugs because there had been a supply bottleneck.
Authorities explained that the drug in question would soon be in the country and there was no need for alarm.
Barely had the dust settled, when the Zimbabwe Medical Association (ZiMA) warned that there could be an impending shortage of drugs, as importers were struggling to get foreign currency from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.
ZiMA implored the central bank to prioritise foreign currency allocation to importers of medical drugs, as failure to do that would be akin to opening the door for a health crisis.
What is clear in both cases is the need for the authorities to strategise and plan for life-saving medication, as failure to do that would be catastrophic.
That there is a shortage of foreign currency on the market is obvious, but what is important is that the authorities are careful and deliberate in the allocation of the scarce United States dollars that the country manages to bring in.
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This would entail that, along with fuel and electricity imports, HIV drugs and other medication for terminal ailments are put high up on the list.
The country has done well in reducing HIV prevalence and it is important that we maintain that trajectory, rather than watch the gains being reversed because of failure to import drugs.
It is imperative that the government finds ways of ensuring that drugs are brought into the country at all costs.
In that same vein, it is important that we encourage the government to implement the Abuja Declaration when it comes to budgeting, which should see at least 15% of the budget being allocated to health.
This would mean that our health sector is always catered for, rather than in instances when we are caught flatfooted and seeking answers when there is a shortage of drugs.
In the long run, authorities should fund research into the production of generic drugs, which is far much cheaper and more sustainable than in this case where we have to import drugs.
The budget is tight and there is very little money floating around, but subsidising drug manufacturing companies would be in the country’s best interests.