29 June 2011

Swaziland: Aids drug dwindling

Cash-strapped Swaziland's state hospitals have only two months' supplies of Aids drugs, said the country's health minister.


Cash-strapped Swaziland's state hospitals have only two months' supplies of Aids drugs, the country's health minister has told parliament in an assessment that Aids patients and activists took as a death sentence.

State media quoted Health Minister Benedict Xaba as making the remarks to parliament a day before. He blamed the country's economic crisis, linked to a drop in customs revenues amid a worldwide recession.

More than 60,000 Swazis depend on anti-retroviral Aids drugs, known as ARVs, distributed free at government hospitals.

Swaziland, with a population of about 1 million, has the world's highest percentage of people living with the virus that causes Aids. More than a quarter of Swazis between the ages of 15 and 49 are believed to carry HIV.

Financial Crisis

Swaziland is seeking international loans to cope with its budget crisis. Xaba says Aids patients should not lose hope, but news of dwindling drug supplies has worried patients.

Without AIDS drugs, "we shall die," said Patrick Mngometulu, an Aids patient who has been on government-supplied drugs since 2003.

"Mothers who take ARVs will be worse affected. ARVs help children not to get HIV infection from their mothers. So if mothers stop taking the ARVs their children are in danger. We lose hope, and the situation will decrease productivity of the infected," Mngometulu said.

Thembi Nkambule, director of the Swaziland National Network of People Living with HIV and Aids, said the government has made strides in combating Aids, moving from 15,000 people on ARVs in 2005 to 60,000 today. But now, she fears gains will be lost.

"Swazis will die in numbers. Hope will be lost," Nkambule said.

A pro-democracy movement in Swaziland, southern Africa's last absolute monarchy, has gained some ground since the government announced its plan to freeze civil service salaries and sell off state-run companies. But the government has cracked down hard on protests, and reformists have had to contend with reverence for the monarchy among many Swazis.

Activists have criticized King Mswati III of living lavishly while most Swazis live in poverty, and of harassing and jailing pro-democracy activists.

(Sapa, June 2011)

Read more:

Preventing mother-to-child transmissions

How HIV drains our pockets


Read Health24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Ask the Expert

HIV/Aids expert

Dr Sindisiwe van Zyl qualified at the University of Pretoria before working for an HIV/AIDS NPO in Soweto for many years. She was named one of the Mail & Guardian's Top 200 Young South Africans in 2012.

Still have a question?

Get free advice from our panel of experts

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

* You must accept our condition

Forum Rules