Woman in a panic over HIV meds

But official denies Quigney clinic ran short of ARVs

Anti-retroviral drugs next to an analogue wall clock.
Anti-retroviral drugs next to an analogue wall clock.

Access to state-provided HIV treatment has come under the spotlight after an East London woman vented her frustration, claiming she was not receiving her anti-retroviral medication (ARVs) from a Quigney state clinic.

She accused the clinic of not providing her with regular ARV treatment since March.

According to the woman, whose name is being withheld due to her HIV status, on days when treatment has been available the clinic would only supply her with medication that lasted three days at a time, instead of a full month’s supply.

“We need the treatment daily in order to remain healthy. What must we do when the only clinic serving us is constantly out of pills?” she asked.

All state patients are restricted to visiting healthcare centre closest to where they live, which means if her claims are true, the woman has been without treatment on certain days.

She was forced to buy her latest round of treatment – a one-month supply – from a pharmacy, which cost her in the region of R1 400.

She claims nurses at the clinic once opened a sealed container in her presence, giving her a few pills to last only a few days.

Aids Healthcare Foundation regional policy and advocacy manager Larissa Klazinga said ARVs prevented patients from picking up opportunistic infections and maintained their immune systems at strong and healthy levels.

However Klazinga pointed out: “Merely being on ARVs is not that simple. Each patient needs to be managed individually.

“An HIV-positive patient who also has other diseases, will need treatment unique to his or her case. And unfortunately, not all treatment plans are readily available in clinics everywhere.”
She said treatment regimes were divided into first, second, and thirdline treatment.

“Regimes are structured according to a patient’s needs. It is advisable that patients adhere strictly to their treatment, in order to avoid moving to more complex treatment as it can become quite expensive and hard to access,” Klazinga said.

When buying from a pharmacy, ARV treatment started out at R80 for first-line treatment, but can increase drastically when a patient needed to move to second and third-line treatment,” Klazinga said.

“First-line treatment, which all patients who test positive are placed on initially, is more widely available in healthcare centres everywhere.

“However as each case becomes more clinically complex, medication becomes less available.”

Department of Health spokesman Lwandile Sicwetsha disputed the woman’s claims, saying: “The department has a stock visibility system in place used to monitor stock levels at all clinics on a weekly basis. ARV shortage has not been picked up at the clinic [in question], meaning there has been no shortage of medicine. “

He added: “Each clinic should have a trained nurse with the capacity to attend to all HIV-positive patients.

“Complicated cases are referred to higher levels of care for doctor management.”

Sicwetsha said certain ARV treatment could not be dispensed at local clinics.

“Medicines are graded, and some can’t be dispensed at clinics. Clinics therefore are able to advise patients on where to get medication that is not dispensed there.”


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