About a month ago, Ghana was reported to have been facing shortage of Anti-Retroviral Drugs (ARVs), a life-saving medication for the suppression of HIV infection in Persons Living with HIV (PLHIV).
The worrying situation, according to health and development Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in the country, could have dire implications on PLHIVs and endanger progress made on the UNAIDs 90-90-90 target.
They argued that of a target population of 193,901 PLHIVs who were expected to be put on ARVs treatment, only 173,000 were benefiting from the treatment due to the non- availability of the drugs at designated health facilities across the country.
Spokesperson of the group, Mrs Cecelia Senoo, in a media interview had intimated that, “about 70,000 packs of ARVs expected to be procured by government for delivery in December last year, have still not arrived.”
According to her, without adequate access to the life-saving medicines, PLHIVs risk developing drug resistance which could also lead to potential deaths, urging government to take urgent steps to avert a looming disaster.
Consequently, the Ghana AIDS Commission (GAC) at its recent dissemination of the 2019 National and Sub-National HIV and AIDS estimates and projections, declared it had moved to restock all designated health facilities where there were reports of shortage of ARVs.
The Director-General, Dr Kyeremeh Atuahene assured that “as of now, there are no stock-out in any part of the country and anyone who needs antiretroviral can receive them in any of the health facilities that provides treatment services.
“Indeed, there was a brief stock-out in some regions but this situation has been addressed by filling the pipe line to ensure that regions have adequate stocks for the next few months,” he emphasised.
As a matter of fact, the Programme Manager of the National AIDS Control Programme (NACP), Dr Stephen Ayisi-Addo, in corroborating the DG’s assertion, appealed to PLHIVs to manage the available drugs as authorities make all efforts possible to beef up supply.
“Due to the coronavirus pandemic, there have been delays in shipment and we have seen some reduction and low stocks in the regions and at the national level but we are making efforts to procure more drugs as immediately as possible,” he assured.
For us at Ghanaian Times, it is welcome news because we believe that it is better late than never to have these drugs in stock to enable PLHIVs continue with treatment.
We however urge that government takes immediate steps to facilitate the importation of more ARVs into the country amidst COVID-19 restrictions to avert another shortage.
We side with the World Health Organisation (WHO)’s stance that “we cannot let the COVID-19 pandemic undo the hard-won gains made in the global response to HIV/AIDS.”