ARV rationing shocks patients

Thousands of people on antiretroviral therapy (ART) have expressed concern over the continued shortage of the life saving drug, Nevarapine in public health institutions in Lusaka.

And several patients interviewed but who asked not to be identified however said the recent decision to remove maize and fuel subsidies was a cause of concern to them because they feared that government maybe also be planning to decide against free HIV drugs.

They indicated that such a move would prove to be double tragedy for them, as they were already struggling to meet the required levels of nutrition that must accompany drug intake as food in general had become more expensive.

The reduction in their levels of nutrition was a direct result of the removal of the subsidy on maize and fuel, which had pushed the prices of basic foods upwards, they said. They argued that taking ARV’s on reduced nutrition was deleterious to their health.

They expressed fear and worry over their health and their future because of the uncertainties on government’s commitment to provide the drugs free of charge.

“The PF government has kept us worried as people living with HIV because it seems they have no concern for the plight of the people including those living positively and they may just wake up one day and decide to withdraw the free drugs and start charging us” said one patient.

They said several people could be affected just as was the case in the removal of maize and fuel subsidies which has affected the standard of living for poor Zambians.

“As it is we are struggling to keep nutrition levels acceptable standards because food has become very expensive. Mealie meal alone is now costing over K55.00” another patient lamented.

The patients maintained that the current drug shortage could be a plan to test them on how they would react if they were to start paying for the drugs.

People living with the virus have complained that despite government’s pronouncements of improved supply of the drugs since the last reported crisis, many have continued to receive rationed supplies that last only one week.

Treatment, Advocacy and Literacy Campaign (TALC) national coordinator Felix Mwanza confirmed the shortage but said that health institutions were building up on stocks with the commencement of distributions adding that supplies to patients will soon improve as well.

Mr Mwanza said the situation was under control and that unless there were other problems, the shortage was being worked on by ensuring constant supplies except for some health centres where staff has not ordered adequate supplies.