Zimbabwe HIV Drugs Shortage Leads To Fears Of Mass Deaths

ARVs: Zimbabwe has run out of the type of HIV/AIDS drugs used to treat those who have developed resistance to these normal ARV drugs and there is a fear that, within a short time, thousands of people could die as their immune systems are overwhelmed. The Government says it knows nothing about this, even though AIDS organisations have been inundated by HIV and AIDS patients in the last two weeks, who say they are on death's door because they are being told to go and find elsewhere if they can.

Harare, Zimbabwe, 07 February 2010

Zimbabwe has run out of second-line HIV/AIDS anti-retroviral drugs, leading health and HIV/AIDS experts to predict massive deaths within a very short of time.

Second-line anti-retrovirals are the medication taken by HIV/AIDS sufferers who have developed resistance to the first line of defence: the normal anti-retrovirals. This is mostly due to them not following the prescribed dosages.

In the absence of the second line drugs, health experts say, patients will see their immune systems rapidly overcome by the disease, leading to premature deaths on a scale never seen before in Zimbabwe.

The Zimbabwe National Network for People Living With HIV confirms that in Harare alone, 500 people have besieged its offices after being failing to access the second line drugs.

Those affected have been taking part in a trial to develop anti-retrovirals (known as DART), conducted by the Clinical Research Centre. They are now being told to seek the medication from pharmacies, but, even if the drugs could be obtained from pharmacies, they cost nine (9) times more than the normal ARV drugs, which are considered extremely expensive themselves in Zimbabwe.

Surprisingly, for such a grave matter, government is professing ignorance. The Director of the Aids and TB Unit in the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare (which is controlled by Morgan Tsvangirai's MDC), Dr Owen Mgurungi, says he knows nothing about the matter. He will "investigate", he says.

Because of brain drain, our drug supply systems have become weak. Some participants to the (DART) trials are now on the Government programme. I will investigate what is really happening."

I suppose, in the meantime, considering the slow pace at which government "investigations" take place, the Grim Reaper will be asked to lay off the sick people until the "investigation" is concluded. Perhaps they will have to threaten him with CIO if he refuses to cooperate.

All this is so uncalled for, really and exposes the fact that the government of Zimbabwe is sleeping on the job. Busy tending to their own personal needs, the Ministers in this so-called Coalition are paying no attention to their areas at all, to the extent that all they ever do is fight fires.

They are not in a hurry at all to attend to any of the matters vexing Zimbabweans because they are busy planning their next trip overseas, where they get US$5 000 a day allowances for sitting conference rooms and saying not a word, only slipping out now and again to go shopping for the luxuries that Zimbabweans do not even know exist.



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