[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United
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
"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
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
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.