HIV/Aids

23 February 2009

ARV shortages: 30 die daily

About 30 people have died every day over the past four months due to their inability to access Aids medicines in the Free State, according to the SA HIV Clinicians Society.

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About 30 people have died every day over the past four months due to their inability to access Aids medicines in the Free State, according to the SA HIV Clinicians Society (SAHIVSOC).

A moratorium on starting new patients on antiretroviral therapy was enacted in the province four months ago due to a lack of drugs.

According to the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) approximately 15 000 people in need of treatment are on a waiting list. "However, many were turned away during the moratorium without being added to the waiting list. Others have had their regimens interrupted due to the drug stock-outs," the TAC said in a press release.

Despite promises by the provincial Department of Health in the Free State that the moratorium would be lifted last week, the TAC says they continue to receive complaints from doctors and activists in the province that they still do not have access to drugs.

"A doctor from the provincial Department of Health recounted how two women had presented at Pelonomi on Monday 16 February to access ART for their babies. The women were told that no drugs were available, but that they should wait until 2 pm that afternoon at which time they would arrive. At 2 pm, they were told to come back the following Friday (27 February). The women were afraid to talk to journalists as they feared that this would derail their chances of accessing ART for their babies," the TAC said.

On Wednesday 11 February a circular was sent to staff at ARV sites advising them to follow a set of guidelines in the initiation of new patients. These guidelines are described by the TAC as "vague and unrealistic".

According to the TAC the guidelines included the recommendation that ‘prescribers are to consider the staggering of initiation of new patients from the existing waiting list over one to two months’. "One doctor explained that it would be at least six months before provincial healthcare sites are able to catch-up with the ART waiting list, and that patients will continue to die in the interim because of a lack of treatment," the TAC press release said.

(Health24, February 2009)

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Dr Sindisiwe van Zyl qualified at the University of Pretoria in 2005. She is a patients' rights activist and loves using social media to teach about HIV. She is in private practice in Johannesburg.

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