The international medical organization, Medicines Sans Frontiers (MSF) yesterday warned that lifesaving antiretroviral medicines (ARVs) are routinely not making their way to patients in sub – Saharan Africa, most often despite sufficient stocks already being present in countries, and called for urgent improvements in ARV distribution in the region.
By Edward Makuzva
MSF Regional Pharmacist Tinne Gils said the campaign Empty Shelves,” Come Back Tomorrow – ARV Stock Outs Undermine Efforts to fight HIV ‘’ is based on surveys conducted in South Africa, Mozambique, Malawi, and Congo.
Gils said the necessary medicines are available in the country but do not reach peripheral clinics because of cumbersome procedures, logistical challenges and lack of resources.
“Most stock out happen in silence and patients go home empty handed or with suboptimal treatments.
“National and international shortages of medicines do get donor and government attention, but the availability of medicine in local health centers is not routinely monitored and therefore not acted upon , even though it happens regularly and affects a large number of people”, Gils said.
The regional pharmacist added, nationwide surveys are conducted two years in a row in South Africa show that between 20 and 25% of local health centers were unable to dispense the complete amount of one or more HIV or TB medication.
She added 80% of cases, drugs were available in the country but did not reach the clinic’s pharmacies.
“In Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, 77% of the city’s local health centers surveyed had experienced stock outs of at least one ARV over a period of three months, while in Mozambique 41% out of 17 clinics surveyed in Maputo City and rural Tete province experienced the same”, Gils added.
Gils highlighted that improving medicine delivery to the last mile will require long term commitment from countries and international donors, but it also details simple emergency measures that can quickly decrease the impact of stock outs on patients.