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MANZINI - Thousands of HIV/AIDS patients have been placed at risk with the shortage of antiretroviral (ARVS) drugs.

The shortage is said to be countrywide. About 20 patients living with the virus contacted this publication, raising concerns over the shortage of ARVs in some of the country’s health institutions. Based from interviews with the affected patients, it was gathered that the shortage of the ARV drugs in most public health institutions had raised fears of interruptions among people taking the life-saving treatment - should the situation continue. Antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) are used in the treatment and prevention of HIV infection. They fight HIV by stopping or interfering with the reproduction of the virus in the body. It has been also gathered that most patients are being given a week’s supply of the drugs instead of the traditional three months because of the currently dwindled stock. “For example, if a patient would normally get a two months’ supply, they currently receive one month’s supply,” a patient said.


Another revealed that he usually received his supply from a local private clinic, however, he had been turned back because of the drug shortage. “It has been two weeks now and I am worried about my health, however, I am currently taking alternative supplements so to boost my viral load,” the patient said yesterday. This publication can confirm that HIV-positive patients are currently being referred to other facilities for their monthly supplies. For a month, ARVs have been out of stock in some public and private health facilities and patients have been ordered to seek other alternative places. Despite that most health institutions are affected by the ARVs shortage, two of the local major health institutions, Raleigh Fitkin Memorial (RFM) Hospital and Lamvelase Clinic have revealed they had previously ordered in bulk and still have the said drugs.

Sources at the RFM Hospital have revealed that there were currently unbelievable queues for ARVs because of the shortage at other health centres. “We do not have other medicines but ARVs and we have been receiving a number of patients who needed a supply of the drugs since we still have,” the source said. RFM Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Benjamin Simelane said their suppliers gave them such drugs in huge numbers and they were currently not affected by the shortage. Dr Nkululeko Dube of Lamvelase Clinic, said he was out of the country but would check with the health centre’s pharmacy if they were affected by the shortage or not. “However, we do order in bulk and would like to assume we still have some in stock,” Dube said last night.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation (WHO) in its ‘Transition to new antiretroviral drugs in HIV programmes: clinical and programmatic considerations’ highlighted that it had  recommended adopting drug regimens with high potency, lower toxicity, high genetic barriers to resistance, usefulness across different populations and lower cost.



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