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ARV row: Over 1 million patients at risk

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A ROW has erupted between the government and social rights groups demanding the protection of people living with HIV and Aids over shortages of life-saving drugs mainly in Manicaland, it has emerged.

BY RICHARD CHIDZA

The government, through the Health ministry, released a statement yesterday “to set the record straight and assure members of the public on the availability of sufficient supplies of anti-retroviral medicines (ARVs) in the country” in response to media reports of crippling shortages.

While acknowledging there were shortages of essential drugs a few months ago, the statement claimed these had been well managed.

“The reported shortage in Manicaland was in the second quarter of 2017 of Atazanavir/Ritonavir 300/100mg supplies as a result of a delay in receipt of a planned shipment as well as increased consumption of the product beyond what was projected.

“This resulted in facilities supplying patients less than three months’ supply of the product during that period. However, adequate supplies were then received between May and June 2017 and since then health facilities have been receiving their adequate supplies according to their orders,” the statement read.

“Another second-line ARV (Abacavir/lamivudine 600/300mg) was also briefly in short supply from June 2017, again due to a delayed shipment. During that period patients were also supplied with less than three months’ supply of the product. Supplies have since been received and there is currently more than 12 months’ supply in the country”.

But civil society groups in Manicaland, among them the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, Zimbabwe National Network of People Living with HIV (ZNPP+) and the Diocese of Mutare Community Care Programme, also issued a damning statement expressing grave concern over the “ongoing shortages”.

“The shortages put the health and welfare of over one million people living with HIV at high risk. We call upon the government of Zimbabwe to urgently prioritise the allocation of foreign currency towards procurement of ARVs.

“Over the past two months we have noted with concern that thousands of people living with HIV have been caught up in the ongoing shortages of the life-saving second-line ARV drug-Abacavir,” the rights groups said.

“We are equally concerned that the country will not be able to cope if the clients on second-line have to be moved to third-line [a much more expensive combination] due to treatment failure and an increase in defaulters due to unavailability of treatment in public health institutions”.

The rights lobby groups said, while Zimbabwe had received rave reviews globally over the way it has responded to issues of HIV and Aids, it was “disheartening to note that the country continuously faces shortages and stock raptures”.

But the government claimed Zimbabwe now had one million people on treatment since the launch of the Guidelines for Antiretroviral Therapy for the Prevention and Treatment of HIV.

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