THE government has said it will set aside funds during FY 2018/19 for buying drugs to treat critical opportunistic infections (OIs) for HIV-positive patients, most of which aren't available in public health facilities.
In an exclusive interview with the 'Daily News' yesterday, the Director of Pharmaceutical Services in the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children, Mr Daud Misasi said the decision follows a public outcry of shortages of the drugs.
For years now, he said, drugs such as Fluconazole both in capsules and liquid as well as Acyclovir for treating herpes simplex 'had gone missing' after development partners who used to supply them abandoned the plan. "We had these drugs donated by partners ... but we are now experiencing shortages for lack of funding ... so we've decided to source our own funding from next financial year," he said.
This paper reported on Monday the risks HIV-positive patients reporting for treatment with opportunistic infections are enduring for missing the drugs which are very effective before the patients are managed and put on Anti-Retroviral Theraphy (ARVs).
A week long survey of this paper in Geita region revealed the serious shortage of the drugs in question forcing the patients to buy them in private pharmacies with very few out of many patients reporting with OIs being able to meet their unbearable costs. It was established in the surveyed areas of Katoro, Chato and Bukombe Health facilities that each tablet of Fluconazole for instances was sold at 1000/- a tablet or 5000/- for a packet of three tablets which is too much for many to afford.
According to Mr Misasi who prior to his current position was the director of zonal operations with the Medical Stores Department (MSD), the government has responded to public concerns and would seek adequate supplies of the drugs to address the current shortage. Apart from shortages of the two crucial OI drugs in Geita, the Mwanza Regional AIDS Control Coordinator Dr Pius Masele also echoes the same concerns, but says not many patients in the region were suffering from opportunistic diseases anymore due to proper ARV administration.
"Very few patients are found with opportunistic infections these days due to increased awareness on the disease and proper use of ARVs," he said, during a training session organised by the Arier Glaser Pediatric AIDS Healthcare Initiative (AGPAHI), an NGO implementing AIDS projects in four regions within the Lake Zone. AGPAHI is implementing a programme worth 5.2bn/- in Geita region between October 2017 to September this year where among others it is funding for improved health infrastructure and services to HIV positive patients.
According to Geita Regional Coordinator Dr Agripa Mjema, some of the funded programmes include repairing of five Care and Treatment Clinics (CTCs) and pharmacies in Chato and Bukombe districts, three in Mbogwe District, two in Nyangh'wale Distric and one in Geita Town Council. Another facility lined up for funding is the Geita Regional Hospital whose laboratory, CTC, pharmacy and store await critical repairs.