Health department finds claims of ARV shortages ‘surprising’

2013-12-04 12:06

HIV/Aids activists have warned that Mpumalanga will not win the fight against the pandemic unless it puts its house in order.

The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) said issues that needed to be sorted out – particularly in the Gert Sibande district, which has the highest HIV prevalence in the country – were water, antiretroviral (ARV) stock-outs, a shortage of medical staff and the “dysfunctionality” of the Aids councils from local to provincial level.

Mpumalanga TAC coordinator Thobile Maseko said Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, who chairs the SA National Aids Council, was informed of these challenges in November.

Motlanthe was in Piet Retief on the weekend to observe World Aids Day and the TAC boycotted participation in the event.

Maseko said there was no clean and safe drinking water in towns like Ermelo and Standerton.

Ermelo residents, she said, were buying bottled water as dirty water came out of their taps, while Standerton residents have not had access to clean water since March this year.

“This is particularly dangerous for infants, the elderly and people living with HIV. Because of these issues, the TAC could not observe World Aids Day,” Maseko said.

“On the issue of dysfunctional Aids councils, we want the premier [David Mabuza] to make sure that these structures are fully functional, and that there are clear plans and programmes. Our clinics are short-staffed and overburdened,” she added.

Early this year, the TAC and the National Association of People with Aids (Napwa) accused Mabuza of shirking his responsibility because he had never attended any of the Mpumalanga Provincial Aids Council’s meetings.

Mabuza responded by saying that he would be hands-on.

Mpumalanga has the second-highest HIV/Aids prevalence at 36.7% – after KwaZulu-Natal at 37.4%.

The coal-mining hub of Gert Sibande is leading all districts in the country with a prevalence of 46.1%.

KwaZulu-Natal has managed to see its HIV/Aids prevalence dropping by 2.1% since 2009 and districts with a prevalence above 40% were reduced from five to three.

But Mpumalanga’s overall HIV/Aids prevalence increased by 2%, while Gert Sibande’s went up by 7.9%.

Mpumalanga health spokesperson Ronnie Masilela said the department did not have reports about drug shortages or lack of access to clean water.

“It’s surprising that we don’t have such reports. However, HIV/Aids is a collective fight and people must tell us what they think we need to do. Pointing fingers won’t help because people are getting infected,” Masilela said.

DA provincial leader Anthony Benadie told the legislature yesterday afternoon that in the first quarter of this year 21% of HIV-positive patients could not receive their medication because of shortages.

The shortages, Benadie said, were also experienced in the distribution of condoms as the province supplied 6.8 million less condoms than was originally planned.

“We believe that attention must be drawn to the serious problems in the health system in the province. It will not help people to know their status if they cannot get access to ARV treatment, counselling or quality healthcare in the province,” Benadie said.

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