Press Statement: Arrival of ARVs- a relief
The Treatment Advocacy and Literacy Campaign (TALC) would like to commend the Government of Zambia on the procurement of the recently received Antiretroviral Drugs (ARVs) in the Country. The organisation would like to further commend The Government for increasing the budgetary allocation for the purchase of essential drugs by 50 per cent.
However, the recent stock-out of ARVs - a situation that could have been prevented - persisted countrywide over the past few months need not overlook such occurrences, better planning and accountability measures are required. This ARV stock out threatens the successful public health program against HIV in Zambia, including the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) in Zambia; which is sustainable only through the constant availability of ARV’s in the country. TALC recognises that it is through Government’s continued commitment to the right to health that Zambia has managed to ensure appropriate interventions for women during pregnancy, leading to a reduction in paediatric HIV infections as well as a reduction in child mortality. By 2010, Zambia had expanded its PMTCT service coverage to 81% of anti-natal care clinics, resulting in an increase in HIV testing among pregnant women, from 14% in 2005 to 94% in 2010. This continued success cannot be guaranteed in the face of drug stock outs; recurrent or once off. Furthermore, the interruption of ARV supply in the country frustrates the adherence rates of patients on ARV’s as they are forced to stay without ARV drugs, which perpetuates ARV drug resistance and diminishes the quality of life for the patients.
The Government promises a budgetary allocation of 50 per cent towards the purchase of essential medicines. However, there is limited clarity towards the exact monetary commitment to purchasing ARVs. Particularly because ARVs are a fraction of essential medicines and therefore it is not known if the percentage allocated for ARVs is sufficient for the consumption needs of ARV’s in the country. Furthermore, in a country where 80% of the National AIDS response is donor driven, there needs to be enhanced commitment from the Government to fund 100% of the National AIDS response from domestic resources, for purposes of sustainability and ownership. Development partners and donors should merely enhance government efforts.
The fulfilment of governments’ obligation of ensuring a sustainable ARV supply chain will pave the way to achieving a high quality of health service delivery for all Zambians. At present, the health security of 500,000 people on ART is tragically in danger and cannot be guaranteed if the ARV supply chain remains volatile. Knee-jerk reactions in managing the HIV programme must be avoided if the public health goals of Zero New HIV Infections and Zero AIDS-Related Deaths are to be attained.
There are health facilities which are still experiencing ARVs stock out, even with the recent arrival of ARVs in the country. Until ARV’s are rapidly rolled out countrywide to all health facilities, responsible for ART care, the resolution of the problem remains to be attained. Furthermore, the recent stock out of BCG vaccine against Tuberculosis also raises apprehensions in the manner public health program is managed in Zambia. TALC will continue to monitor the situation in all parts of the country to ensure there is equal access to HIV treatment and care.
TALC will proceed to petition the Government through the Minister of Health (MoH) to ensure that Zambia develops a sustainable ART supply chain to prevent future erratic supply of ARV. The MoH must also ensure that the procurement units conduct adequate forecasting in recognition of the demand for ARV’s in the country, if the goal of universal access to treatment is to be achieved without compromise.
Ndumo P. Mpumila: National Advocacy and Sustainability Coordinator
Mobile: +260 977 652 982
TALC is an NGO that serves to advocate for better and affordable access to HIV treatment, care and support through empowering HIV infected people, including children with treatment information and advocacy skills.
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