HIV patients who on a three-month basis get antiretroviral (ARV) medicines at the Robert Mugabe clinic had to go home without their normal supply early this week because of a shortage of the drug.
New Era learnt through sources who collect their ARVs at the clinic that ARVs are in short supply and that some patients were allegedly turned away without getting ARVs, while others only got medicine for one month, instead of three months due to the prevailing drug shortage.
One source that spoke to New Era anonymously, said she went to the Robert Mugabe clinic on Tuesday but she was told at the clinic’s pharmacy that she could only get medicines for one month and not for three months as ordered by the doctor.
“I got my medicine but my friend, with whom I normally get the medicine together, did not get any because there was apparently no medicine. They also called Katutura hospital to ask if they could assist but she (the friend) apparently did not get as they also did not have. I don’t know if the situation has improved now, since I did not talk to my friend, but that was the situation and she had to rely on natural herbs in the meantime,” said the woman who has been living with the HIV virus for 10 years.
New Era tried in vain to get comment from the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Social Services, Andreas Mwoombola, but his phone rang unanswered.
However, New Era was able to ascertain that ARVs are in short supply at Robert Mugabe clinic and Katutura hospital.
“We have medicines. What we do not have are HIV testing kits. What is happening is patients who are supposed to get ARVs for three months are only getting for one month when the pharmacist notices that the medicines are in short supply. They are then given another date to come back so that as many patients as possible are covered,” said a health worker at the Katutura hospital.
Robert Mugabe clinic is also in short supply of ARVs but patients have not been turned away without their medicine, said a woman who answered the phone when New Era called to enquire about the allegations.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Health and Social Services, Dr Bernard Haufiku, yesterday admitted to New Era that health facilities have suffered from a short supply of medicines.
This, he said, is because government was previously not paying suppliers and as a result some suppliers stopped providing medicines and other equipment.
Haufiku said the situation has since changed and government medical stores are normal-stocked with at least 60 to 80 percent of medicines.
(Additional reporting by Helvi Shaanika)