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ARV shortages explained

By Mirirai Nsingo / Published on Wednesday, 23 Aug 2017 18:34 PM / No Comments / 2058 views

23 August 2017

Dr Gerald Gwinji

CASES of drug resistant HIV are on the rise with more people now on second line drugs as they have become resistant to first line drugs, it has emerged.

Health and Child Care secretary Dr Gerald Gwinji revealed that 35 000 people living with HIV were now on second line drugs a development which has contributed to the current shortage of the second line life saving drug.

“What is happening is that we have had an unforeseen increase in numbers of people who are now on second line drugs after being switched from first line. This has resulted in the depletion of available stocks due to the increased numbers,” he said on Tuesday.

“We are suddenly seeing a rise in the cases of people who are going on second line drugs maybe we can also attribute this to increased technology from CD4 count testing to viral load testing which has then helped to pick cases of resistance.

The revelations come in the wake of reports of an acute shortage of abacavir (a second line anti-retroviral drug) that has hit the country.

The situation has resulted in people living with HIV who are on abacavir receiving a week supply of drugs instead of the traditional three months supply that they were now getting.

Dr Gwinji has assured the nation that the drug crisis will be averted soon as they are expecting the drugs to be delivered in the country next week.

“The situation should improve from next week onwards although we might not immediately go back to giving three -months supply, we will start giving a month supply until the situation is stable.

“We ended up having minimum stocks left due to the unforeseen increase in numbers, we had earlier focused that National AIDS Council through the National AIDS Trust Fund buys second line drugs while our partners give us first line drugs.

“Some second line drugs will now be purchased using Global Fund money and we expect a shipment of 26 000 bottles of abacavir next week and some more shipments next month, he added.

Dr Gwinji said they will keep on engaging the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe so that National AIDS Council is able to access foreign currency to procure drugs after it emerged that the shortage is due to foreign currency challenges in the country.

Presently people living with HIV who are on abacavir across the country are getting a week supply of drugs a development which HIV activists fear can further increase default rate, hence fueling note resistance.

“All those on abacavir will continue to get one week s supply at a time as we are in short supply of the drug.

This shortage is not just here but it is a national problem,” announced a nurse at Wilkins Hospital last week.

Meanwhile a health lobby group has expressed deep concern over the drug crisis noting that this has serious health ramifications for people living with HIV.

“It is disheartening that Zimbabwe which had made tremendous gains in reducing HIV and AIDS related deaths over the years is now experiencing a serious shortage.

“This shortage will compromise the health of the 53 percent of the estimated one million people on abacavir.

“Limited availability of ARVs impedes patient initiation, adherence and poses a major barrier to win against the HIV response as a country, ” Community Working Group on Health director, Itai Rusike said.

He further noted that optimal adherence is essential to ensure individual treatment access and limit viral resistance.

“Treatment for HIV is threatened when ARVs are not available, undermining treatment compliance.”

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