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Treatment of HIV patients resumes in Free State

Resource type: News

The Star |

by Anso Thom and Lungi Langa

Most hospital and clinics in the Free State have still not started treating the more than 15 000 people waiting for their antiretroviral drugs, but the national Department of Health has given the assurance that drugs will now start arriving at all 28 sites.

It is unknown how many people were turned away during a four-month moratorium which saw HIV sufferers in need of ARVs being sent home, while others who had been on the drugs for years were told that the clinic had run out of stock.

Dr Yogan Pillay, the deputy director-general of health, admitted that the province had “severe financial pressures”. “The chief financial officer in the province oversees the medicine depot and ensures that drugs get to the sites,” said Pillay, who visited the province earlier this week.

He gave the assurance that the extra funds, coupled with the current provincial budget, were enough to sustain patients currently on ARVs and to provide the drugs to those needing them.

ARVs were due to start trickling into the smaller treatment sites, especially the clinics, by today, while some hospitals have started putting patients on treatment.

Rebecca Hodes of the Treatment Action Campaign said contradictory responses were coming from PelonomiHospital, a large HIV treatment clinic in Bloemfontein, where government officials said the moratorium had been lifted, but patients were still complaining that access to treatment was being denied.

Treatment was being administered to 50 patients daily at BonganiHospital in Welkom this week.

All but one clinic in the province’s Motheo district, which includes Bloemfontein, still did not have drugs at the time of going to press.

Hodes said provincial officials had not fulfilled their duties and had likely not followed due process in pursuing emergency allocations of ARVs and other critical healthcare services, which were cut during the moratorium introduced in November, or considered the dire consequences of these measures.

“Whoever is responsible must be held accountable and must lose his or her position to someone who is committed to fulfilling their role in progressively granting sustained access to medicines in the Free State and South Africa at large,” Hodes said.

Dr Francois Venter, president of the HIV Clinicians’ Society, said the moratorium had translated into a death sentence for many.

“People die without ARVs, and we know of a large number would have died. Who is going to be held accountable? This has done massive damage to the public health system and we need to know how it managed to spiral out of control in four months,” Venter said.

Pillay confirmed that the cutbacks in, among others, surgery, outpatient services and hospital beds were still in place in the province and that the drug- supply crisis was not restricted to ARVs, but applied to many other essential drugs.

In terms of the waiting list, Pillay said the province had been tasked with developing a plan on how it was going to reduce it.

He added he had linked the province with the private sector hospital body, which committed itself to providing ARVs in emergency cases; transport to get the drugs to sites; and additional doctors, nurses and pharmacists where they were needed. – health-e news

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Global Impact:

South Africa


AIDS, ARV, health care, HIV