Sunday World

SA’S gains with HIV therapy at risk

Abuse of patients, drug shortages to blame, says report

- By Masoka Dube

Ill-treatment of HIV patients and a shortage of medication at some health facilities in North West are some of the risks putting their lives in danger as they end up not taking their treatment.

This is according to a report compiled between April and June this year, by South African health advocacy groups looking into the state of the public health system in the North West.

The research is the initiative of the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), Positive Women Network and other organisati­ons in partnershi­p with the George Town University in Washington DC and other organisati­ons in the US .

Titled “Ritshidze”, the research was conducted in all provinces with the reports for Mpumalanga and North West completed and released.

Published on the Treatment Action Campaign and Ritshidze project’s websites this month, the report reveals that some HIV patients were indeed ill-treated.

Speaking to Sunday World Manzini, 34, from Mahikeng in North West, who tested positive for HIV in 2015, said she stopped taking medication the very same year because of the ill-treatment she experience­d at Thabong Clinic.

“When I started my treatment I was pregnant and I always left work and went to the clinic.

By then my employer understood my situation and allowed me to go whenever I wanted to go. “But things changed after I gave birth because my employer would no longer allow me to be away for more than two days, and at the clinic I had to be in a long queue from 8am until 4pm and at the end, you find that they are closing and then I had to come back the following day or the next week when the medication is available,” said Manzini.

According to the report, about 56 health facilities in the province are facing a shortage of medication­s such as ARVS, tuberculos­is medication, contracept­ives, vaccines and other vital medicines.

Officials who work for the organisati­ons said that the drug shortage started some time ago and persists in the province.

“There is an extensive stock crisis in the province and that needs an urgent turnaround strategy. There were 895 reports of different medicines being out of stock in 56 facilities,” said one of the officials.

“The worst-hit district is Ngaka Modiri Molema, followed by Dr Ruth Segomotsi Mompati, Dr Kenneth Kaunda and then Bojanala Platinum.

Although, some facilities do manage to resolve shortages of medication in less than a month.

“There are 28 reports involved stock-outs of five months or more,” said one of the officials.

In addition, there were three facilities in which stock-out of essential medicines lasted over a year; while at others it lasted over two years.

TAC national spokespers­on Ngabutho Mpofu said: “We met repeatedly with the provincial government and other stakeholde­rs, including global funders on key issues around stock-outs and or shortages of medicines.”

Sunday World has been reliably informed that one of the causes of this problem was that there were some senior depot officials who were suspended while others were fired without replacemen­t.

Another problem was the lack of pharmacist­s at some facilities.

Provincial health department spokespers­on Tebogo Lekgethwan­e denied that the department had a shortage of ARVS and other medication. “there is no shortage of staff at all levels.

“The suspended officers have all been recalled except for one,” he also said.

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