Drugs scarcity threatens progress on HIV

BY VANESSA GONYE

CHALLENGES being faced in the procurement of second line drugs for HIV treatment could jeopardise the country’s hopes of achieving the 90-90-90 UN targets on the pandemic, a Health ministry official has said.

The targets seek to ensure that 90% of people get tested and are aware of their status, 90% of those who test positive being put on medication, with 90% being virally suppressed.

This also includes reducing new annual HIV infections to less than 500 000 by 2020 and to below 200 000 by 2030; and hopefully end Aids as a public health threat.

Speaking to NewsDay, director for HIV and Aids and TB Unit in the Health ministry, Owen Mugurungi said there have been challenges in the procurement of the second line drugs, which are not being funded by development partners.

“First line drugs are 100% supported by development partners, while second line is funded by government, through the National Aids Trust. We had problems at the beginning of the year in terms of getting enough foreign currency, but we are now hoping there will be a change in the allocation by the Reserve Bank (of Zimbabwe) so that we improve on availability of the drugs,” Mugurungi said.

Second line treatment is administered as a result of several factors, including failure of the first line regime.

Despite the challenges, Mugurungi said: “I think we are now closer to reaching the 90-90-90 targets and this has been made possible by the different advancements in line with HIV and Aids. These include the introduction of the HIV self-testing kit, moonlighting (testing of HIV during the night), as a result of these and more interventions, more are aware of their status and we are now closer to reaching the targets.

“Those changes have enabled us to move closer to the targets and I can say we generally did well because more people are now getting tested and treated almost instantly as we have also decentralised treatment, while we have been giving people on treatment more supplies to last them longer.”

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