Patients share ARVs shortage ordeals
For months now, the country has witnessed an acute shortage of Antiretroviral (ARV) drugs in public hospitals. People living with HIV/Aids share their experiences with our reporter Nyaboga Kiage.
Rawinji was at the weekend forced to share drugs with a colleague living with HIV/Aids who had ran out of his stock.
Rawinji was left in utter shock to learn that the friend had not taken her dose of drugs for three days. Since they partake similar drugs, he readily assisted her.
“I had to assist someone who had run out of his drugs. She had missed taking her dose or three days, a situation that posed danger to her health ,” he said.
“Who knows what will happen with her viral load the next time she will go for testing. I just gave her few doses that can only last a few days since I could not afford to provide her with a full months supply,” he disclosed.
Rawinji now warns that lives of millions of People Living With Hiv/Aids could be a greater risk should the situation persist with the group being vulnerable to opportunistic diseases such as tuberculosis.
According to him, the shortage would make it hard for one to detect someone living with the disease, a phenomenon that could lead to high infections rate.
Jackline Thuku was shocked on April 1 when she walked into usual clinic to replenish her stock of anti-retroviral (ARVs) only to be given a one month dose instead of the routine stock that could last three months.
Speaking to People Daily over the weekend, Thuku said when she questioned why the sudden change of the routine way, she was told that all public health facilities were facing an acute shortage of ARVs, a development that she later confirmed through reports in the media.
“The shortage has sent shockwaves to most of us. The lockdown has also complicated things since those living in the five counties of Nairobi, Kajiado, Machakos, Kiambu and Nakuru cannot move to a neighbouring region to replenish their supplies,” says Thuku.
She is now worried over her fate once the one month stock she was given is finished with the thought of ending up being admitted in a hospital as a result of the consequential effects giving her nightmares.
Ever since she was diagnosed HIV positive years ago, Thuku has never run out of the drugs .
“The drugs are of essence and when one goes without them their health deteriorates, fording them to be admitted in hospitals,” she says.
Thuku is now urging the government to intervene to ensure uninterrupted supply of ARVs in the country.
“It is not a good experience for one to find himself in. Any default to take the drugs leads to one’s viral loads going up while the immune system begins weakening,” she says as warns that the shortage might lead to a dangerous situation of patients sharing medicines.
Regina says the decision by health facilities to stop providing them with supplies that can last for three months has forced them to make several visits to hospitals which exposes them to Covid-19 infection.
“I used to get ARVs that could last three months, but apparently, I am only given supplies to last only one month, forcing me to visit my facility every month,” Jane said.
She is even envisaging a situation that could force the medics being forced to administer the doses every week as they have to ration the available stocks.
According to her it is even stigmatising to those who live in rural areas because that is where the shortage has hit hardest.
Regina proposes that the government should take the noble responsibility to care for ARVs and other related commodities, such scenarios will not be likely encountered.
“Kenya should manufacture its own drugs which is a perfect option as we will have them at our disposal. This will make the cost and the process of acquisition more affordable,” she said.
Though Kemboi is yet to personally experience it, he has witnessed individuals close to him going through hard times as a result of the acute shortage.
Kemboi says he was lucky to have received his dose just days before the shortage struck.
“The government should ensure that people can access ARVs from any health facility. Default has severe effects on viral loads,” Kemboi says.
According to Kemboi, the lockdown has worsened the situation as it has curtailed movement of people from the five zoned counties to other for fresh stock.
Kemboi wants the Kenyan government to put in place measures to end the shortage.
“They should not wait until we have a public uproar to act. It is very important that the government sets up a framework that will ensure smooth procurement, shipment and distributions of these drugs without interruption,” he said.
He also proposes that it is high time a mechanism was put in place to ensure that the country does not fully rely on donors to supply the drugs.
Wairimu warns that the acute shortage of ARVs is likely to increase the rate of transmissions.
Wairimu who counts herself luck since she acquired her enough stock that could last six months long before the shortage hit the market, wants the government to relax the ban on movement from and into the five counties for People Living With HIV/Aids.
“ Though I have not been directly affected, I know people who are already suffering. It is the responsibility of the government to ensure the availability of the drugs,”says Wairimu.
Wairimu advises patients who may be forced to share drugs to ensure that they stick to the drugs prescribed to them by their physicians respectively.