ERMELO. – Patients on antiretroviral (ARV) treatment here are excited about the roll-out of the single-dose ARVs in April. This, they believe, will improve their quality of life through decreased side-effects and easier adherence.
But ARV patients in the Msukaligwa Municipality weren’t always content with the HIV-treatment available to them. At one stage the Ermelo Provincial hospital was the only public health facility in the area dispensing ARVs. This meant that residents had to travel long distances to the facility, and because so many people were accessing treatment there, the queues were very long. Patients had to be at the hospital very early in the morning, even before the ARV unit opened, and still waited hours before receiving their treatment.
This situation improved drastically after the Department of Health accredited the local clinics to also dispense ARVs. “The accreditation of the local clinics has eased the burden on the hospital’s ARV unit,” said a professional nurse at the Ermelo provincial hospital.
Community members are also pleased with this new arrangement as they don’t have to travel in the early hours of morning to get to the hospital. This also saves them transport money because the clinics are closer to their homes.
Since ARVs became available at the clinics treatment adherence also improved because community members had easier access to treatment.
The only problem clinics faced with this new arrangement was that some facilities had difficulty ordering treatment – clinics were only receiving two of the three-drug ARV cocktail that patients had to take. But patients and clinic staff believe this problem will be solved by the new fixed combination drug that will be rolled-out in April. Instead of ordering three different drugs for every patient, they will now only have to order one.
Ntombfuthi Shongwe a counsellor at Emthonjeni clinic also said this will continue to increase treatment adherence and decrease AIDS-related deaths.
Senamile Phungula in an OurHealth Citizen Journalist reporting from the Gert Sibande health district in Mpumalanga.