The shortage of Antiretroviral (ARVs) threatens to become a national emergency and the shortage of drugs in the country has not spared people living with HIV in many rural parts of Zambia where side effects have started to surface.
A patient in Katete, Eastern Province who has been affected by the shortage confirmed to the Daily Nation that some clinics in many rural parts of the country were experiencing difficulties in adjusting to the new drugs.
Agnes Nkhata of Vulamukoko area said it had become difficult for her to adjust to the new treatment which she got from nearby St Francis Hospital in Katete because the local health centre could not supply her with the usual drug.
She said it was unfortunate that some people could be switched from their usual drugs to another because of the non availability of the prescribed drugs and that one of her family members appeared to be losing her mind because of not taking the right drug.
“My sister is now losing her mind because of all these changes but we have been with her to the clinic and the clinical officer asked us to observe her but the problem persists especially when she takes the drug,
“We thought it was something else but after observing her we realised that it was the switch or reaction to the new drug. We are appealing to government to quickly look at the welfare of the people on ARVs to avoid loss of lives,” she said.
Another Clinical Officer said he had almost run out of ARVs at his clinic, and had been rationing supplies for the past two months. He said the authorities were aware of the situation but had instructed them to ration the consignment that they last received.
The health officers said some of the patients had been switched with some of them experiencing side effects as a result of the switch.
“Yes it is true we have cases of three people that complained about the switch and side effects and two of them appear to be losing their memory. This problem is a disaster if not treated as an emergency and as health workers we are appealing to government to quickly look into the matter.
“Most people here are getting their drugs from St Francis Hospital and the few clinics that give the drugs need to be supported to reduce the burden at the hospital. One of my patients has lost her mind and we are trying hard to work out ways on how to best improve the situation,
“ I can not confirm that it is as a result of the drug but she went for a few days without it and then switched from the old one to the new one,” he said.
He said some patients had even stopped going to the health centre despite being assured that Atriplar was as good as Truvada and Neviripine.
Government had directed the rationing of the drug in all health centres and hospitals due to non availability of the drugs and promised that the situation would normalise as soon as it received a new consignment.