Tanzania: Deep Panic Triggered As Aids Drug Shortage Hits

(file photo)

Geita — PATIENTS attending in various special HIV clinics in Geita region face serious shortage of Opportunistic Infections (OIs) drugs, whose scarcity compromises the battle against the killer disease.

A survey made by a group of reporters from various media agencies last week noted with concern unavailability of the drugs that are crucial to patients suffering from Opportunistic Infections that are usually life-threatening if not timely managed with proper medication.

Different sources in Chato, Katoro and Bukombe health facilities narrated the shortage of Fluconazole Tabs and Fluconazole IV for treating fungal infections as well as Acyclovior Tabs and Creams for treating Helpes Zoster commonly attacking patients with HIV.

A Clinical Officer in charge of Care and Trestment Clinic (CTC) at the Katoro Health Centre in Geita District Council, Mr Augustino Mnyeti, said the clinic normally received new patients ranging from 15 to 20 a week, three to five of them with deadly opportunistic infections. "It is true that we are missing these drugs which are very effective to patients with HIV who are attacked by opportunistic infections.

However, those drugs can be found in private pharmacies where they are very expensive; being sold at 5000/- per pact of three tabs," he said. Katoro is one of the hotspots areas of Bukombe District in Geita Region with small and medium scale mining activities attracting many youth and women groups who work on a daily basis. Its CTC clinic is highly congested, in the wake of the Non Governmental Organisation- Ariel Glaser Pediatric AIDS Healthcare Initiative (AGPAHI), which is partnering with the government to provide care and treatment to patients living with HIV in Geita Region.

According to Mr Mnyeti, the last order of the crucial OI drugs was placed in June 2017, with the Medical Stores Department (MSD) reporting it had run out of stock. The scarcity of OI drugs was also confirmed by the Acting Bukombe District Medical Officer (DMO), Dr Irene Mukerebe, and the DMO for Chato District, Dr Athanas Ngambakubi, both saying an immediate intervention was crucial to ensure their availability and supply.

Dr Mukerebe warned against dispensing other drugs in place of most recommended drugs in treating OIs which results in slow recovery of the patients, thereby making the management process complicated even if the patient was put on Anti Retro-Viral Therapy (ARV).

"While we have good supply of all other drugs, including ARVs, we face regular shortage of opportunistic infections drugs, given our limited budget to facilitate purchases from other sources, clinically it is recommended that they be stocked all the time for proper management," she said.

However, the authorities in Geita Region commended AGPAHI for helping in scaling up intervention in fighting the pandemic especially through capacity building programmes, human resources supports, quality data improvement, rehabilitation of CTC clinics and pharmacies, and many others.

But according to Dr Ngambakubi, over 90 per cent of HIV interventions in Chato District were sponsored by AGPAHI, which calls for more efforts to make sure the government took over effectively when donor funding was reduced or ceased altogether in future.

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