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SWAZILAND: Hospitals run out of ARVs


[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

MBABANE, 18 November (PLUSNEWS) - Swaziland is facing a serious breakdown in the supply of antiretroviral (ARV) drugs for patients with HIV, and some hospitals acknowledge that stocks ran out weeks ago.

Sporadic ARV shortages have been reported at the main government hospital in the capital, Mbabane, and at the provincial government hospital in Siteki in eastern Swaziland.

The Hlatikhulu Government Hospital in the southern Shiselweni District has reportedly not had ARV drugs since October - for three weeks, HIV patients arriving to refill their prescriptions have left empty-handed.

Health organisations said the derailing of ARV distribution was a setback for efforts to treat AIDS in a country with one of the world's highest HIV prevalence rates.

"Key to the national strategy to get people to take blood tests and determine their HIV status has been the assurance that having HIV is not a death sentence, because there are drugs available to treat the illness," an official with an AIDS counselling service told IRIN.

"We have seen people become very serious about AIDS; they are serious about taking ARVs; they know that any interruption in their drug-taking can negate the treatment," said Doris Dlamini, a nurse at the RFM Hospital in the central town of Manzini.

"My health is deteriorating - I can see it, my family can see it - the drugs keep me alive. I was told I must not miss taking them even for one day," said Thab'sile Nkambule, 26, who works at an agriculture supply store and relies on the Hlatikhulu Government Hospital for her medication.

On Friday she attempted to bypass the long queue that usually forms in front of the hospital pharmacy by arriving at five o'clock in the morning, three hours before the pharmacy opened. But her effort was frustrated when she was told no ARVs were available.

The Ministry of Health could not formally comment on the nationwide shortage of ARVs, because a spokesman was not available. However, officials told IRIN they were aware of the drug shortage, and that appeals for help were being made to donor organisations.

Swaziland, with an adult HIV prevalence rate estimated at over 40 percent, has 10,000 people on treatment out of the 230,000 people living with the virus.


Copyright © 2005 -Integrated Regional Information Network, Publisher. All rights reserved to Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) . Reproduction of this article (other than one copy for personal reference) must be cleared through the Integrated Regional Information Network.

Information in this article was accurate in November 18, 2005. The state of the art may have changed since the publication date. This material is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between you and your doctor. Always discuss treatment options with a doctor who specializes in treating HIV.