VOA Examines HIV Drug Shortages In Zambia, Uganda

In two separate articles, VOA News reports on drug shortages in Zambia and Uganda. “The Zambian government is putting in place stringent measures aimed at ensuring a sufficient supply of antiretroviral drugs [ARVs] …, the second time this year that the more than 500,000 people living with HIV in Zambia have had to cope with what the Ministry of Health calls rationing of the drugs — a system that some patients here have been contending with for more than a decade,” the news service writes in the first article, noting, “Zambia’s Ministry of Health admits there is a challenge regarding the stocks of ARVs in the country, which it refers to not as a shortage, but as ‘rationing.'” The news service examines the reasons behind the shortages, discusses the “rationing” strategy, and highlights other potential “long-term interventions that Zambia’s Ministry of Health wants to achieve” (Chimba, 8/17).

In the second article, the news service examines drug shortages in Uganda, writing, “Clinics outside the capital have been complaining of drug shortages, especially of HIV test kits and ARVs.” The news service notes, “Elvis Basudde, head of the Positive Men’s Union, says he has been receiving complaints of drug shortages from clinics across the country,” adding, “For HIV-positive Ugandans, he says, lack of access to ARVs could be disastrous.” However, the news service continues, “Ugandan health advocates such as Margaret Happy, who works with the National Forum of People Living with HIV, say that there is no shortage of drugs in the country,” and, “[a]ccording to the Ministry of Health, Uganda has plenty of ARVs, enough to last until December.” VOA adds, “Ministry spokesperson Rukia Nakamatte says the problem lies with the clinics themselves, and with health workers who do not know how to use the government’s new Internet-based system for ordering medicine” (Heuler, 8/16).