The stock-out of antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) poses a serious threat to the fight against HIV/Aids. Data from the Council of Governors show that supply of the drugs has dropped drastically in the past few months, ostensibly because health budgets have been diverted to contain the coronavirus pandemic. Development partners have all changed priorities, each focusing on Covid-19, leaving out other medical challenges such as Aids.
The emerging scenario is worrying. What it means is that those who depend on ARVs cannot get their supply. This is risky. HIV reduces immunity. Those infected have underlying conditions that render them highly vulnerable to opportunistic diseases. In fact, they are badly exposed when they get viral infection. Which is the reason we argue for strategic response to deal with HIV/Aids.
Aids has ravaged society for some four decades and defied medical science. No drug has been found to cure it. Aids is managed through ARVs that help patients to build immunity and wad off opportunistic diseases.
A lot of investment has been put into this both by the government and donors. To the extent that patients have access to ARVs, they are able to lead a productive life. ARVs are crucially vital and therefore should be made available at all times to those in need.
However, we are alive to the fact that the government is over-stretched as it responds to Covid-19 vulnerabilities. The health system is struggling to cope with coronavirus infections. Economic earnings have fallen drastically.
Last year, for example, the government was forced to introduce some reliefs to cushion citizens against the depredations of coronavirus. But that translated into revenue loss. Those reliefs have since been cancelled. However, the point is that the government is struggling to fulfil its commitments.
Notwithstanding that scenario, provision of ARVs is a life-and-death matter and its budget should be ring-fenced. The government should work with the county governments to find a lasting solution to this crisis.