Govt dumps Aids patients

HARARE - President Robert Mugabe’s government is so broke that it has ordered HIV/Aids patients on medical aid to buy their own Anti-Retroviral drugs (ARVs) as figures of those needing State assistance swell.

Zimbabwe has 1,2 million people who need ARV therapy.

This is a significant increase from the 600 000 who were either in the queue or already receiving treatment before Zimbabwe adopted the new World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines at the end of last year.

Albert Manenji, the State-run National Aids Council (Nac) acting chief executive officer, announced plans to slash the price of ARV treatment for people living with Aids and accessing them through medical insurance and other private schemes.

“This response is actually meant to make sure that those with medical aid and those who can pay do not need to queue at the public sector programme,” Manenji said during a private-public partnership meeting held in Harare. 

“They just go to the pharmacies and buy using medical aid. It means that if we sell $5 million worth of drugs, we would also have created $5 million worth of resources to plough back into the national response.

“This movement will create a gap which other less-privileged people can fill. In terms of stigma and discrimination, it means that somebody can do their business in private without anybody seeing them.”

Until now, those benefitting from subsidised treatment have been paying $1 for a month’s supply of ARVs.

The push to have people living with HIV buy their own medication is part of a desperate government drive to fight the HIV virus in this country divided by politics which has one of the highest HIV prevalence rates in southern Africa.

Manenji said under the new arrangement, Nac will procure ARVs in bulk for distribution by NatPharm and licensed pharmacies respectively at affordable prices.

NatPharm is charged with the procurement of drugs for all State-run hospitals, and is mandated to guarantee the availability of safe, effective and affordable medical supplies to various public institutions.

“The issue is our resources for national response are actually dwindling,” Manenji said. “We are saying how best can we make sure that Zimbabweans continue to access medicines at reasonable prices?

“We saw that in the private sector, ART medicines are four or five times higher than what they are in the public sector. We sat down with partners and entered into a partnership. We will buy the medicines as Nac at the manufacturing rate, plus the landing cost at NatPharm. NatPharm and pharmacies then put each a mark-up we agreed on.”

Pharmacies will get a maximum profit of 25 percent, according to Manenji.

ARVs are selling for between $18 and $50 for a month’s supply in the private sector and around $1 in the public sector.

This has pushed many to enrol for the free scheme, stakeholders said.

In November 2013, the ministry of Health and Child Care reported that following the adoption of new WHO guidelines, the number of people requiring ARV therapy had jumped from more than 800 000 to around 1,2 million.

The WHO’s updated recommendation is to enrol patients on ART earlier: if their CD4 count falls to 500, rather than the previous threshold of below 350.

Half of those are in urgent need of ARVs.

At least 73 percent of the drugs are supplied by the Global Fund for Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which supports Zimbabwe’s ARV programme, which Nac says has disbursed only $21,8 million for the 2014 roll-out.

At least 11 percent of ARVs are supplied by government through the Aids Levy and the remainder from individual purchases, Manenji revealed.

Last year, Nac generated $33, 5 million in Aids Levy contributions, but the tax base has been shrinking due to job losses which are peaking amid donor fatigue hitting the country.

The new initiative is particularly targeting patients who have medical insurance.

Manenji said this way, many people living with HIV who are currently failing to access treatment can be absorbed into the public scheme.

Shylet Sanyanga, chief executive of Association of Health Funders of Zimbabwe (AHFoZ), said the development was positive.

“Due to lower drug costs, this robust system will ensure that medical aid patients continue to access their treatment without fear of exceeding annual limits,” Sanyanga said.

“It is expected that there will be no defaulters. The employer will benefit in that fewer man hours are lost through queuing for drugs at public institutions.”

Douglas Gwatidzo, secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Medical Association (Zima), said the partnership was feasible notwithstanding the concerns raised around patient follow-up, stock-outs and drug smuggling.

“It’s not easy but it is not impossible,” Gwatidzo said.

“Zima has received training on follow-up, initiated by Global Fund. On smuggling, I think we are fortunate to have necessary regulations in place including Zimra on one side and the Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe on the other.”

Comments (23)

The money that should have gone into assisting AIDS patients was stolen. This is the consequence of the massive corruption that has been happening under our very noses. We admired the thieves as they drove their top-of-the-range Range Rovers but look now the common man-in-the-street is carrying the cross while the thieves continue sloganeering without any stain of conscience. Is this what we fought for?

Chomu Mangwaja - 15 April 2014

Its a shame that the same thieves from government are the people who then decide other people's fate. Its unfortunate that some of these people are paying the AIDS levy but will not benefit from it. SHAME

Diada - 15 April 2014

Vabereki vakadya muzambiringa, vana vonzwa ugugu. Taimbofunga kuti President ndivo vachagadzirisa zvinhu asi mwari vatibuditsira pachena kuti ndivi vega vanogona kushandura hunhu hwaRobert. Pandakazviziva ndakanzwa runyararo mumwoyo mangu, "Mwari ndimi, ndimi Mwari." Kubva kwaRobert hakusi kushanduka kwezvinhu, asi kuziva kuti kunamwari wekumusoro soro, asina mumwe munhu anomira pamberi pake, ndipo panotanga shanduko. Imagine 1,2 million people dying within 2-3 months or a year, tinovaviga pai? Mari yacho yekutenga vanoiwana kupi iyo Hurumende isina kana zukwa zvaro? You should meet again to discuss this issue

Chaitemura - 15 April 2014

nyika ino yave kuendepi zvokwadi, ndiro bhora mughedhi here iroro murwere akagara kuruzevha anoiwanepi mari yekutenga mapiritsi akona, vana dumbuguru vachitenga vic/falls yese ,bhuruwayo yose pese parikuvakwa mubyo ndi obert , munamato wangu kuna mwari vekudenga ndinoti pindirai neshamhu yenyu , kana zvichibvira kutora munhu uyu kurikubatsira vanhu ndinoti haiwavo tenzi itai henyu , panekuuraya vanhu 1.2 mil

mundawarara pasinawake - 15 April 2014

Very poor journalistic article, confused and fact-less, plans and adopted policy are 2 different things. YOU go on to state that "highest HIV prevalence rates in Southern Africa', that shows how poorly your daily lies is informed. Check South Africa, and Botswana from WHO statistics. Infact Zimbabwe has been a success story in reduction of HIV infections in Africa. You are drunk with hate politics to the extent of distorting facts. Maybe the highest HIV prevalence rates is among the ranks and file of your puppet party leaders and supporters.

reason - 15 April 2014

@Reason So are you supporting this initiative of those affected to fend for themselves regarding the issue of drugs? Because despite throwing down his journalistic abilities, you went down to insinuate that this was pushed for buy the opposition. How sane are you really? Can you do Zimbabwe a favour and go drown in a lack somewhere. At least we'll know we've less one stupid person to take care of.

Chaitemura - 15 April 2014

@ Reason. Why are you always shooting off target? Why are you not a Reasonable person Reason. Facts are facts, Zimbabwe has one of the highest HIV prevalence rates in Southern Africa. We contribute through the AIDS levy and it pains us that there is nothing to show for it.

Dr Know - 15 April 2014

Kuti zanu ndokuti varoyi, masatanist, mbavha etc nxaaa. Mwari pindira.

Tsvangi supporter - 15 April 2014

i think this is the highest level of ignorance and armchair journalism. the headline and the story in the body do not match. in the article, noone appears to have been "dumped".actually NAC is providing an alternative to ART clients. those who want to access treatment from the GOVT and Council OI clinics can continue to do so while those ART clients who are on medical aid can also continue obtaining their treatment thru private pharmacies. this will not only decongest the OI clinics but will also go a long way in scaling up access to ART services. those clients who do not like to stand in queues will easily access treatment in the pharmacies.private pharmacies will also benefit as they will be able to sell the art drugs which they buy at manufacturing price and sell at a profit not exceeding 25%.can someone honestly point out in the article were anyone has been dumped?????

Oska PistoMbuka - 15 April 2014

Many thanks to Oska PistoMbuka. Its just so refreshing when someone makes sense. There is enough discomfort at the moment going on in Zimb in terms of the economy, no need to bring more confusion to what is being communicated. People need to interpret information properly and then make a choice. Being negative does not bring any joy or support, but on the contrary just adds onto more misery!!

Winy for clarity - 15 April 2014

I've never encountered anyone online who is as irrational and can't reason, and also refuses to reason, such as this @Reason retard.

Tom - 15 April 2014

This person called "Reason" does not reason at all. I wonder why you gave yourself such a name, reasonless

Lion - 16 April 2014

This person called "Reason" does not reason at all. I wonder why you gave yourself such a name, reasonless

Lion - 16 April 2014

please leave reason alone and lets talk about the matter at hand hanzi ma ART akuzo tengeswa go and get tested ten when you are found positive you will know what it feels like to live with HIV or AIDS this is no joking matter eventually those benefiting may find themselves sick and with nowhere to run. I think we need to commend the Government for at least introducing affordable prices for ART's otherwise the coffin making business would experience a boom as we witnessed in the early 90's.

VHAVHO - 16 April 2014

inga tanga tatanga zvakanaka wani! tanga taderedza death rate. zvino zotosiyira basa panzira, vana cuthbert dube vaidya mari dzevarwere vachingofamba free. zvakaoma.yavo medication pamwedzi inodeedzera $45 000.00. varwere vangani vangabatsirikane nemari iyoyi?

think - 16 April 2014

So the editor of this paper does not not that it is written as AIDS not Aids!

saya - 17 April 2014

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