Durban – Healthcare activists attending the ninth South African AIDS Conference this week in Durban have blasted the government for the shortage of second-line antiretroviral (ARV) drugs that continue in parts of the country.
Sibongile Tshabalala, chairperson of the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), has called for quality healthcare and an immediate remedy to fix the system.
She says people living with HIV are at the receiving end of corruption and mismanagement at state healthcare facilities.
More than 100 of about 670 health facilities that were monitored by the Stop Stockouts Partnership over the past two months had drug stockouts of Dumiva, a two combination ARV pill containing the active pharmaceutical ingredient Lamivudine.
Addressing delegates at the Aids conference, Tshabalala said, "we meet in a time when Aids denialism is beginning to recede and a time when South Africa has a large treatment programme. But we also meet at a time when corruption is rampant."
She mentioned the dysfunctional provincial health departments, including the Buthelezi EMS scandal that plagued a number of provinces.
“These are the co-epidemics behind the Life Esidimeni tragedy, behind the disgraceful cancer crisis in KwaZulu-Natal and the looting of the HIV Conditional Grant to pay Buthelezi EMS in the North West, she added.
Newly-appointed Health minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize said that a shortage of this drug is the reason behind the ARV medication shortfall.
International pharmaceutical company Mylan is contracted to supply the two ARVs which are currently scarce.
However, Tshabalala said there were stockouts because the country’s healthcare system was in a terrible state, where medicines pile up in depots while clinic shelves remain empty.
“When the problem is with the supplier, it takes months for the news to filter through to clinics and for the department to provide advice on alternatives – as has just been the case,” she said.
Mkhize said there was a monitoring system involving civil society, to resolve the issue of the ARV shortages and any other shortages and has vowed to work with stakeholders to resolve the issues.