ZIMBABWE has run out of antiretroviral drugs, putting an estimated 310 000 people living with HIV/Aids at risk.
in the health sector said the Secretary for Health revealed at a meeting on September 14 that the national Anti-Retro Viral Treatment programme had weeks, not months, of ARV stocks.
“This confirmed a statement made by the Aids and TB Unit chief co-ordinator Dr Owen Mugurungi at a donors’ meeting that the programme was going on a week by week basis in terms of ARV drug supply,” sources said.
At an ART Partners’ Forum meeting a week earlier, the Aids and TB Unit’s logistics manager had warned that the national programme would run out of ARV drugs by December if there was no replenishment of supplies.
The situation, experts said, was worsened by the fact that previously most of the ARVs provided to patients were procured from Varichem, a local company with strong government support.
“With the shortage of foreign currency in Zimbabwe, it has become increasingly difficult for Varichem to order raw materials to manufacture ARVs,” the source said.
“The company receives sporadic foreign currency allocations from government to import raw materials, making it an unreliable source of ARVs for the national ART programme,” the source added.
“Moreover Varichem is not yet WHO pre-qualified and without WHO pre-qualification, it is not possible for most donors or partners to provide support for ARV manufacturing to the company.”
The plant at Varichem is currently closed for renovations in preparation for a WHO pre-qualification assessment. With WHO pre-qualification, it may become possible for donors to provide support to the company to manufacture ARVs or buy the drugs from it provided prices are competitive with other suppliers.
Currently the main source of ARVs for the national ART programme is a government-UN swap mechanism set up in November last year to raise foreign currency for the national ART programme to procure drugs.