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ARVs shortage panic

But provincial department says there is no crisis

DESPITE the serious shortage of certain drugs to maintain the lives of people living with HIV and Aids in Limpopo, the provincial department of health and social development has allayed fears that the situation might be getting out of control.

The department has been experiencing shortage of ARVs in the past few weeks and this has caused panic that the situation might leave those suffering from the affliction in serious trouble.

Departmental spokesman Phuti Seloba yesterday said the drugs in short supply were Tenofovir and Abacavir.

"There is a serious shortage nationally and this is already on national tender," Seloba said.

He said Limpopo was being prioritised to receive stock, "hence the stock is being delivered frequently".

"Facilities must continually check with the provincial pharmaceutical depot to get their respective supplies," the spokesman said.

He said they were now trying to manage suppliers to ensure his department would not run out of stock.

Seloba said his department had to approach the Mpumalanga and North West provinces to borrow the drugs to ensure regular supply to their patients.

He said the Mopani district in Limpopo was in dire need of the medication.

"Mopani district is a high risk area because of the many farms in that area. We have had instances where patients would visit our clinics in the mornings to get ARVs only to be told to return in the afternoon while we were still awaiting stock. But in the end they receive their medication," he explained.

Seloba added that as a way of ensuring proper control his department had now resorted to supplying the drugs "in-house" and it was hoped this approach would lead to better ways of managing the scarce drugs.

"We have met with pharmacists and workers' unions to explain the situation and they all understood."

The spokesman said his department was cautious not to cause a situation in which people would end up not getting their regular medication and subsequently develop resistance to the drugs.

"But we are not yet in a crisis, " Seloba said.

On the other hand the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) in Limpopo has accused the department of being responsible for the shortage.

Sibongile Nkosi, TAC provincial spokeswoman, said her organisation had sent a letter of complaint to the department.

"We are not happy at all. Our people end up getting half of their supplies and this puts a lot of strain on them," Nkosi said yesterday.

She said some people were contemplating to switching from ARVs to AZTs, which are easily available.

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