Zambia Facing Shortage of HIV Medications

The Network of Anti Retroviral Users of Zambia is perturbed at the current shortage and rationing of the life-prolonging drugs used for treatment of HIV-positive citizens.

However these complaints have thus far been dismissed by government officials. Ministry of Health Permanent Secretary Dr Peter Mwaba said there was no need to panic, arguing that there were enough stocks of anti-retrovirals and that he had not received any reports about these shortages and rationing of the medicine.

Network President Daniel Lungu said anti-retroviral users in Zambia were worried that they current shortage and rationing of these life-saving drugs would bring about many consequences among HIV-positive people.

He said in Lusaka that many people on anti-retroviral treatment would experience disruptions, which could also degenerate into resistance to the medicine.

Lungu was reacting to the current shortage of anti retroviral drugs across Zambia, which had been caused by delayed importation of the medications from abroad.

He said the government must take responsibility on these shortages, as the timely and predictable imports of such critical medications were a matter of life and death for Zambia’s large population of HIV-positive citizens.

Lungu said it was poor planning on behalf of the government to fail to secure enough anti-retroviral drugs for its people.

“The government officials must get serious. This is a programme that has been going on some many years now and we thought they know the time and planning for the drugs,” he said. “We are worried because the shortage may cause some of the people on anti retroviral drugs to relapse and develop resistance. We want the government to do better next time because this is a very sensitive matter that can result in the demise of many people. It is the lack of poor planning for the government.”

In response to the dwindling stocks of these medications, health institutions across Zambia have been instructed to ration, with some clinics remaining with less than one week supply of the tablets as the government makes frantic efforts to import the medicine.

But Ministry of Health Permanent secretary Peter Mwaba said there was no need to worry about the shortage of anti retroviral drugs. He said the shortage was sporadic and not wide spread as reported in the media. Mwaba said the shortage of anti retroviral drugs was normal because the government was putting in place measures to restock the health centres.

“There is n need to panic as there were sufficient stocks of the drugs in the country. There is no shortage of drugs and if people want, they can go to the health centres and check. I don’t think it’s true that there is a shortage f anti retroviral drugs unless something has happened just now,” Dr Mwaba said.

He said all health centres were instructed to stock enough drugs before the closure f the Medical stores in Lusaka but some institutions did not heed t the advice, forcing the artificial shortage of drugs.

He said the reported shortage of anti retroviral drugs in Western Province was because the poor road network and floods that prevented the delivery of anti retroviral drugs.

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