Patients are sometimes sent home with only half their usual prescription of life-saving medication. Photo: File
A devastated 22-year-old woman pleaded with clinics in Carletonville on the West Rand not to gamble with the lives of HIV-positive people as they were receiving half the prescribed amount of medication.
The woman said she had experienced this twice: “Last month, I went to the main clinic in Khutsong to pick up my antiretrovirals. [ARVs] and I was puzzled when the nurse handed me a container filled mostly with toilet paper. I only noticed it on my way home and unfortunately I didn’t have a taxi fare back to the clinic. Unfortunately the pills were out before my next visit,” she said.
She said that last week she returned to the clinic and was perplexed when she received insufficient medication again.
“Usually we receive a prescription from the nurses, which we take to the pharmacy which is part of the clinic. But this time the container was full of toilet paper again.
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“We usually get about 30 pills to last us a whole month. I asked the nurse if there was a shortage of medicine, as this was the second time it had happened. I also wanted to know what would happen if the pills were out before time because last month I had to wait for my next visit to the clinic. The only thing she said was that nothing had changed and I should wait for my next appointment. It’s very frustrating and scary because I don’t know how it will affect my health.
She said she did not know if there was a shortage of ARVs in the province or if the rumors that some nurses were selling the pills were true.
“They are playing with our lives and I hope the Gauteng Health Department will act quickly,” the woman said.
HIV activist Thami Jim said what the clinic allegedly did was wrong.
“Clinics play with people’s lives, as patients’ immune systems go through ups and downs, making it easy for those on medication to develop opportunistic viruses like tuberculosis. Also, their viral loads [will be affected] because now it’s like they’re out of medicine,” he said.
National Chair of the Treatment Action Campaign, Sibongile Tshabalala, said patients who received drug shortages at their facilities were forced to return frequently for refills.
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“As users of public health care, most of us cannot afford to return to the facility constantly. As an organisation, we have seen that for those who are employed, a shortage of medicines means that they often have to miss work – and this could lead to them losing their jobs,” she said. declared.
Department spokesman Kwara Kekana said there was no shortage of ARVs in the area.
Health workers cannot dispense incomplete drugs to patients because the drugs are delivered in sealed packages. Patients are advised to accept only sealed treatment packages. The district will follow up on this with patients
Tshabalala said in the group’s second health status report, Ritshidze, he called on the provincial health department to put in place three- to six-month ARV refills. Ritshidze (meaning Save Our Lives in Tshivenda) is a project developed by people living with HIV and activists to hold the South African government and aid agencies accountable for improving the overall delivery of HIV services. against HIV and tuberculosis.
However, provincial health department spokesperson Kwara Kekana denied that there was a shortage of ARVs in the area: “Health workers cannot give incomplete drugs to patients because the drugs are delivered in sealed packages. Patients are advised to accept only sealed treatment packages. The district will follow this up with patients.
She advised patients who were not receiving enough drugs to file a case with the police, citing rumors that health workers were selling ARVs for private use.