Shortage of treatments counteract HIV efforts in Africa

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) recently stated that efforts to eliminate HIV in sub-Saharan Africa have been damaged by shortages of antiretroviral medicines needed for treatments.

“The system needs to be improved because we cannot fight HIV without medicines,” Gilles Van Cutsem, MSF’s medical coordinator in South Africa, said. “To efficiently protect individuals’ health and decrease HIV transmission in communities, antiretroviral treatment needs to be taken for life, without interruption. But how can patients be expected to remain adherent to their treatment if their medicines are not available when and where they need them? Fixing the supply chain until the last mile and measuring access are preconditions for countries to be able to control the emergence of resistance to current antiretroviral treatment, accelerate the fight against HIV and put the epidemic under control”.

These shortages must be resolved before significant progress against HIV can be made. Most of these product disruptions are because the supply chains for the treatments are unable to guarantee that the medicines will reach the patients due to logistical difficulties, burdensome procedures or a lack of resources.

Surveys that were conducted throughout South Africa demonstrated that 20 to 25 percent of the local health centers could not distribute enough HIV or TB (tuberculosis) medicines.

“We cannot fix what we do not see,” Tinne Gils, MSF’s regional pharmacist, said. “Most stock outs happen in silence and patients go home empty-handed or with suboptimal treatments. National and international shortages of medicines do get donor and government attention, but the availability of medicine in local health centers is not routinely monitored and therefore not acted upon, even though it happens regularly and affects a large number of people.”

Organizations in this Story

Medecins Sans Frontieres / Doctors Without Borders

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