BLOEMFONTEIN – While the rest of the country is celebrating the roll-out of a new HIV treatment, the Gabriel Dichabe Clinic has run out of antiretroviral tablets.
The Free State Chairperson for the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), Mr Sello Mokhalipi, said: “We have noted the effort by the Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, in ensuring that all hospitals are functional, but there seems to be some hindrances here.”
According to Mokhalipi there is a high staff turnover at the clinic. “There is a trend of untimely resignations of management at the clinic, and this has had an adverse impact on the service delivery system,” he said. “The most painful reality of the crisis is the impact of shortage of the drug to pregnant women, who are in dire need of the drug at the very crucial moment.”
According to the TAC, newly-diagnosed patients here have been on a waiting list for a long time and have had no indication of when they will go on treatment. The organisation is also worried about the number of patients who are turned away because of the unavailability of the drug.
Besides patients waiting to start treatment there is also fear regarding the implication of the break in treatment for those who was on ARV medication before. Mokhalipi indicated that the Batho Pele principle and the advantages of early testing are at risk of becoming meaningless.
“People have courage and believe that when they get tested they will have access to medication, only later to have difficulties in accessing treatment. This questions the Department of Health’s commitment in combating HIV/AIDS,” said Mokhalipi.
“It is common knowledge that patients develop drug resistance if they do not take their medication properly, and that could be the case with patients at this clinic,” he said.
Mokhalipi appealed to authorities to treat this as a matter of urgency. “There is no flow of information, untimely resignations and staff turnover has serious consequences on the lives of people. We have tried advocating for change, but seems like we are not succeeding, somebody needs to intervene,” he pleaded. OurHealth/Health-e News Service
Mathilda Smous in an OurHealth Citizen Journalist reporting from Bethlehem in the Free State.