Health-e (Cape Town)

South Africa: MSF Step in to Handle ARV Crisis in Eastern Cape

More than 50 000 HIV positive patients in the Eastern Cape as at risk of antiretroviral (ARV) treatment interruption due to ongoing drug supply shortages.

Patients interrupting their ARV treatment run the risk of developing drug resistance and in some cases the outcome is fatal.

Resistance also often means patients have to be placed on second line regimens that are much more expensive.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) sent an emergency team to Mthatha on Friday to provide assistance at the medical depot.

Recent strike action, combined with irregularities that led to the subsequent suspension of 75% of the medical supply depot workforce has led to an interruption of ARVs getting to clinics.

The Mthatha depot, which provides ARVs and other essential medicines to about 30 hospitals and about 350 clinics in the Eastern Cape’s rural eastern region, has not been supplying life saving drugs for weeks.

Problems at the depot have led to a significant backlog in receiving drugs from suppliers, capturing orders from facilities, packing and delivering drug orders which enable many of the province’s nearly 220,000 HIV patients on antiretroviral therapy (ART) to adhere to their treatment.

“The national Department of Health and the Eastern Cape Department of Health (ECDOH) welcomed assistance to deal with the crisis,” MSF, the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), Section27 and the Rural Health Advocacy Programme said in a statement.

The MSF-led team, has started to map out the scope of the supply crisis, fill critical staffing gaps and plan an urgent response to ensure HIV patients get the drugs they require.

Meanwhile, the National and Eastern Cape Departments of Health are working on an emergency plan as well as longer-term solutions to the critical staff and drug supply problems, the statement said.

MSF and the TAC have made an urgent call to HIV patients and healthcare workers in the Eastern Cape to alert the emergency team about ARV stock-outs at their local clinics and hospitals.

The can call or sms the MSF & TAC ARV EMERGENCY HOTLINE on 081 896 7638, or 081 896 7631

Callers can remain anonymous and information will be handled confidentially.

The team needs the following information:

From HIV patients:

- Did you not receive any ARV drug/s in the last 28 days?

- Which ARV drug/s did you not get?

- Were you given less than 28 days supply of any ARV drug/s?

- Which clinic supplies your ARVs?

From healthcare workers

- Do you have any shortage of ARV drugs at your facility preventing you from supplying patients in the next 28 days?

- Which ARV drugs are in low supply?

- How many days of supply do you still have of that drug?

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