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MORE than half a million people living with HIV and Aids are in danger as the public hospitals countrywide are experiencing shortages of the anti-retroviral (ARVs) drugs.

So acute is the situation that patients are now being forced to switch to drug combinations something which experts say compromises their health. According to experts mixing of drugs leads to a patient becoming drug resistant which leads to death.

Nazareth hospital is one of the institutions hit by a critical shortage of second line treatment drugs to such an extent that they are now giving adults second line drugs for children.

“I went to check on my drugs but I was given this syrup for children as drugs are said not to be available at the moment,” the source said.

“It’s like being given paracetamol for children and expect to be healed,” the source said.

Zimbabwe HIV and Aids Activist Union (Zhaau) vice president Stanley Takaona said the government has put its people on death row by failing to avail the life-saving drugs.

“This is surprising because last week we went for a community monitoring project in Mashonaland Central and what we saw was shocking,” Takaona said.

“In Mashonaland Central children are being given medication meant for adults, the opposite of what is happening at Nazareth hospital,” he said.

Zimbabwe in 2012 switched to Tenofovier, a new ARV regimen following guidelines released by the World Health Organisations. The new drug is said to have lesser side effects compared to Stalanev which the government has been prescribing to all HIV patients.

However since the introduction of the new drugs there has been a decline in the supply of ARVs in all public institutions leading to patients being given one week supply instead of two months or at times given the old drugs that have serious side effects.

Early this year government approached the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to help ease the drug shortages through the Global Fund.

UNDP insiders said while the Health ministry approached their organisation there have been challenges in shipping the drugs in order to meet the demand and that government should play its role in procuring drugs rather than blaming their partners.

Source : New Zimbabwe