500 000 Lives In Danger As ARV Crisis Persists In Zimbabwe

By Michael Gwarisa 

NOT less than half a million lives are at risk of developing HIV drug resistance and full blown AIDS or dying if the prevailing shortages of Anti-Retroviral (ARVs) drugs particularly the second line regiment (Abacavir) is not resolved. 

Speaking at a Joint Press Conference in Capital, the  Zimbabwe National Network of People Living with HIV (ZNNP+), Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights  (ZLHR) and the Diocese of Mutare Community Care Programme (DOMCCP) have bemoaned the lukewarm pace  concern over the slow pace at which the ongoing shortages  being resolved.

“These 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 prioritize the allocation of foreign currency towards the 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 on-going shortages of the life-saving second line ARV drug – Abacavir.

“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,” said the organizations.

They say said that it was disheartening to note that while the country has been commended globally for its response to the HIV and AIDS epidemic, its still face the risk of drug shortages and stock ruptures. This said,  has the effect of watering down the remarkable progress made by the country to date.

“We appeal to both the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development and the Ministry of Health and Child Care to
avail the desperately needed foreign currency to ensure an uninterrupted supply of the lifesaving drugs
especially considering that PLHIV on second line are already at high risk.

“We implore the same parties to put in place requisite mechanisms to ensure that a similar situation does not occur in the
future. Providing one month’s supply of second line treatment only adds to the financial burden already faced by people living
with HIV.”

While providing three month’s ART supply for clients on the first line treatment regimen is commendable, the organisations urged the Ministry of Health and Child Care to consider providing at least six months’ supply for PLHIV in high emergency alert
areas commonly affected by floods in emergency settings.

“We also urge the government to make ARVs available to PLHIV free of charge to reduce morbidity and mortality to HIV
and AIDS and address social issues such as poverty which are causing the spread of HIV/AIDS.We support calls for the localisation of the manufacture of ARV drugs. This will assist in preventing interruptions caused by time lags and potentially bring down the prices of ARV drugs. This is of significant importance considering that this year we celebrate the enrolment of one million people onto the national anti-retroviral therapy programme.

“Finally, we encourage the Ministry of Health and Child Care to rigorously investigate the causes of the high levels of
treatment failure among people living with HIV. This is the only way that we can attain the 90-90-90 goal by 2020.”

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