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National Aids Council to procure ARVs for medical aid societies

THE National Aids Council (NAC) is working on a scheme where it would procure anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) on behalf of medical aid societies to make them cheaper for end-users who buy their medicines from the private sector.

BY PHYLLIS MBANJE

Over 600 000 people who are living with HIV and Aids in Zimbabwe are failing to get the life-prolonging drugs.

Speaking at a health workshop in Masvingo last week, NAC information and communication director, Madeline Dube said there was a facility that enabled the council to buy ARVs at a low price than those in the private sector.

“We want to encourage them [medical aid societies] to come up with a scheme for their clients and NAC will procure [drugs] on their behalf. It becomes cheaper if we purchase on their behalf,” said Dube “Most people access their medicines from private institutions, so we want to ensure that it becomes cheaper for them to do so. It is all about accessibility and affordability.”

Dube said for example NAC, an organisation that facilitated the national multi-sectoral response to HIV and Aids, buys Nevirapine at US$2,90 but the private sector purchases the same drug at US$7.

She said if the medical aid societies purchased ARVs at a cheaper price, the drugs would be cheaper and readily available to end-users.

Statistics indicate that Zimbabwe has 1,2 million people who are living with HIV and Aids with 178 421 being children.

Over 500 000 adults and 111 421 children are in need of the medicines but cannot access them.

Health experts say if the country was to adopt the new WHO guidelines, which say that those with CD4 count of 500 cells/ mm3 can access treatment, the number will shoot up to 650 000.

Two week ago, Zimbabwe National Network for People Living with HIV/Aids (ZNNP+) chairman, Sebastian Chinhaire said most members were facing problems in accessing their monthly supply of the drugs.

He cited abacavir, a drug which he said was not readily available at referral hospitals like Parirenyatwa and Harare hospital, the country’s major health centres.
But the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare last week denied that there was shortage of ARVs.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Masvingo workshop, a coordinator for Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) in the Health ministry, Angela Mushavi said the drugs were available, but the distribution chain was still facing a lot of challenges.

“When we get our supplies from manufacturers, the medicines are obviously stored in a central warehouse and the challenge is in distributing the drugs to each centre that is in need of them,” she said.

Mushavi added: “The distribution chain is still heavily flawed, and in most cases it takes a while for the medicines to finally find their way to the client, who might not understand the whole process.”

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