News / Africa

Zambia Faces Shortage of Anti-AIDS Drugs

An HIV-AIDS patient (R) places her hand on her forehead during a visit by a caregiver at her home in Matero township on the outskirts of Lusaka, Zambia, April 17, 2012.
An HIV-AIDS patient (R) places her hand on her forehead during a visit by a caregiver at her home in Matero township on the outskirts of Lusaka, Zambia, April 17, 2012.
The Zambian government is putting in place stringent measures aimed at ensuring a sufficient supply of anti-retroviral drugs. The drugs are essential for those infected with HIV/AIDS, but the medicine currently is in short supply.  AIDS patients have had to travel more than 30 kilometers from their homes - often on foot - to reach clinics, where all too often they are told that the medicine has run out.  

This is 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.

It is a bitter pill to swallow, especially because obtaining medicine is not as easy as one would think.  A check at some clinics in Lusaka shows that patients must turn up at 4 a.m. to queue services they will only receive hours later.

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."

Chikuta Mbewe is the deputy director of pharmaceutical services.  He said part of the problem was an ongoing switch in Zambia and other countries from one drug, Truvada, to another, Atripla.  Mbewe said complications with the switch have driven down the stocks of both drugs.

"I must hasten to say that there are a lot of planned shipments that have already started arriving in the country.  We think now we are in the normalization curve, so to say.  We hope we can get back to our normal levels,” he said.

Mbewe said the Zambia government wanted as many people as possible to be on [taking] Atripla, since an eight-month supply of the drug was expected to arrive in Zambia before the end of October.

Mbewe said the government’s strategy was to get 95 percent of people living with HIV using Atripla, to simplify the supply chain.

But Felix Mwanza, national director of the Treatment Advocacy and Literacy Campaign, believed the ARV situation in Zambia could have been avoided with proper planning.

“To us, when they say the situation will improve by October, I think justifies what we have been saying," said Mwanza.  "I think there is more than what the naked eye actually sees. Because if the government were saying initially that it will take two weeks for the situation to improve, and they and they move on to say that it will improve in one month's time - and this time they are talking about October - then who is telling the truth? So people should actually be asking questions, [such as] 'Is there something amiss?'"

Whatever the cause, the shortage is real.  Ackim Sakala, a primary school teacher who has been living with HIV for 12 years, is not happy that he has to go to the clinic every month to collect his ARVs, though he acknowledged the situation could be worse.  His clinic is only a kilometer away.

“I can imagine for those that walk long distances, I know what they are passing through. From the experience that I have had  some people have been rationed to two weeks and you can imagine every two weeks they have to get to the clinic to collect their drugs.  For sure there is a shortage," he said.

One of the long-term interventions that Zambia’s Ministry of Health wants to achieve is to attract investors to set up a pharmaceutical plant that will not only manufacture ARVs in the country but other essential drugs as well.

In the meantime, all the people living with HIV have to face the grim reality of what the authorities are referring to as rationing, when the people that use the drugs call it a shortage.

You May Like

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Works to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Smithsonian senior research botanist Vicki Funk says ultimate goal is 'trying to get one-half of the diversity of plant life on Earth at the genus level in two years' More

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

Report from member of British think tank says Russian extradition requests keep targets from traveling More

US Lawmakers Weigh Turkish Anti-terror Moves

Turkey’s two-pronged campaign against Islamic State militants, Kurdish PKK forces provokes mixed reactions on Capitol Hill More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponentsi
X
Henry Ridgwell
July 28, 2015 9:53 PM
A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video Special Olympics Athletes Meet International Friends

The Special Olympics are underway in Los Angeles, California, with athletes from 165 countries participating in an event that gives people with intellectual disabilities the chance to take part in an international competition. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that for athletes and their families, it's also an opportunity to make new friends in an international setting.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs