The Namibian (Windhoek)

26 June 2013

Namibia: No ARVs for Otamanzi's HIV Patients

Otamanzi — FOUR clinics in the Otamanzi constituency of the Omusati Region have reportedly run out of anti-retroviral drugs leaving HIV positive people at the risk of developing drug resistance, higher viral loads and disease progression.

Some people have also died due to the lack of these life-prolonging drugs.

Otamanzi constituency councillor Johannes Iyambo told The Namibian that he was concerned by the number of people who were not receiving the ARV drugs after the four clinics in his constituency ran out of stocks.

He said the most affected patients are mainly the poor who cannot afford to visit nearest hospitals such as Okahao and Oshikuku to receive their medication.

Iyambo said many people had complained to him that since they do not have income, they could not afford the fare to Oshikuku or Okahao district hospitals. He claimed that his previous appeals to the Ministry of Health and Social Services to provide clinics in his constituency with enough ARVs have fallen on dearth ears.

The four clinics are Onkani, Amarika, Etilyasa and Otamanzi.

Officials in the Ministry of Health and Social Services could not confirm or deny the shortage of ARVs at the said clinics.

The ministry's spokesperson, Ester Paulus, said as far as she was aware they had brought the service closer to the people in the regions.

She was however not talking of the specific incident and promised to follow up with the health directorate in Omusati.

Iyambo said Onkani clinic is managed by Oshikuku District Hospital which is 67 kilometres away while Amarika, Otamanzi and Etilyasa clinics are run from Okahao, which is between 55 and 12 kilometres away.

Iyambo said patients must pay up to N$75 from Onkani to Oshikuku for a one-way trip.

“It is too much for a person who is not working and even for those earning low salaries,” he said.

He said many people had approached him for assistance and he has helped a few from his own pocket.

“I do not have much money to support all of them. It is too costly, but I have tried my best to support where I could,” said Iyambo.

He claimed that some patients have died after they stopped taking the medication.

“It is regrettable but that is how things have been and the situation is beyond my control,” Iyambo said.

He did not however say how many people had died because of a shortage of ARVs.

“I can't reveal that because the people did not come out publicly with their status. You cannot say it publicly if he or she has come out publicly,” Iyambo said.

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