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ARVS STOCK DEPLETED

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MBABANE – The country is left with only four months’ supply of antiretroviral (ARVs) therapy at the Central Medical Stores (CMS).


This was revealed when parliamentarians, who are members of the Ministry of Health Portfolio Committee, were touring the CMS in Matsapha on Monday.
The CMS is where all the country’s medical supplies, especially those for public health facilities, are kept.

Explaining the situation, the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Dr Simon Zwane, said ARVs were available but not in adequate supply. Zwane explained that the country was not in good standing, as there was stock to only last the country for four months, yet ideally they preferred to have stock for seven months.


Buffer


He said above the seven-month stock, they also ensured that there was a buffer stock, which assisted during difficult times when the ARVs were not in adequate supply.


Apparently, even the buffer stock has been depleted. Zwane further urged the legislators to work with them in ensuring that government enabled them to have an adequate supply of ARVs.


CMS Deputy Director Themba Motsa noted that in financial terms, they were not in the best position. Motsa said government allocated about E270 million, for ARVs supply, but the Ministry of Finance released only E68 million which was paid to the various suppliers. He said the paid amount did not even cover the E100 million owed by the Ministry of Health to the suppliers. This, he said meant that the ministry was able to use the available resources to partly pay the suppliers, but there was still no funds to beef up the supply of ARVs.


During an interview, Chairman of the Ministry of Health Portfolio Commitee, Mduduzi ‘Small Joe’ Dlamini said the drug shortage was not looking good for the country. Dlamini, however, assured that the ARVs would not run out and emaSwati should not panic. He said following what they had gathered at the CMS, they needed to engage as members of the committee and find means on how to address the matter.


According to Dlamini, they discovered that there were challenges faced by the Ministry of Health, including procurement being delayed by certain things.
“The issue of fuel shortage was on top of the list, as staff could not get some of the work done on time,” Dlamini said.

He said government should simply make the health sector a priority.  Swaziland Positive Living (SWAPOL) Director Siphiwe Hlophe said the situation of ARVs shortage in the country was disturbing. Hlophe said they had been deliberating on the matter ever since the shortage started, as they heard from some of their members that they were receiving supplies for one month instead of the usual three months’ supply.


She acknowledged that some mentioned that they were being changed to another regime, which was why they were given one monthly supply for monitoring purposes.


Disaster


“This is a disaster; the country should do something and at least stop some of the programmes and prioritise on the ARVs,” she said. Further, she said they had received reports that some clinics were allegedly rolling out expired ARVs to patients, especially those who were ignorant.
Hlophe said the country introduced the Test and Treat programme, which had seen a number of people being enrolled on ARVs.


“Does the country want us to die because if the shortage continues, a number of people will relapse,” Hlophe said. She said the country would go back to a time where funerals were being held in every corner, due to the current situation the country was facing.


According to Hlophe, they would be engaging in a lot of advocacy with government regarding the issue and indicated that certain programmes should be stopped to cater for the drug shortage issue. “Seemingly government is not recognising this and we need to raise the red flag. If it means that they stop the Test and Treat programme, then let it be so,” Hlophe said. 

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