Close to 70 HIV patients were reportedly left stranded last week after the Minister of Health and Wellness allegedly ran out of ARVs.
The patients, who spoke to The Voice on condition of anonymity, complained of how they were turned back at Princess Marina Hospital where they had gone for their monthly refill.
Torn between a mixture of fear and fury, some of the patients accused the government of not caring despite the seriousness of the situation.
“We were told to go back as nothing could be done to help us but this medication is something that once you miss, your CD4 count drops down,” highlighted a middle-aged man angrily.
A different patient claimed that when they asked for advice, they were told to buy the drug in pharmacies, only to find it was incredibly expensive.
“A bottle of Dolutegravir (DTG) is selling for P1, 400 and lasts only one month. Where do we get such an amount while unemployed?” she demanded.
When contacted for comment, Deputy Permanent Secretary, Public Health Management, Dr Morrison Sinvula confirmed there had been a shortage of ARVs in recent weeks.
“Our suppliers took longer than we had expected to deliver but patients shouldn’t politicise the issue because we gave them some drugs to take while waiting for more stock. We had to rationalise what was available so that no one defaults,” he explained.
Whilst sources dismissed Sinvula’s response as ‘lies’, the Deputy Permanent Secretary promised the situation would be solved and never repeated again.
Meanwhile, a highly placed source at the Ministry told The Voice that a court case in which companies supplying ARVs want Central Medical Stores to be interdicted from carrying out a tender to supply the drugs has contributed to the shortage.
Efforts to get a comment from the Minister of Health and Wellness, Alfred Madigele failed as he could not be reached.