UN allays ARV shortage fears

By Thabani Zwelibanzi

A foreign currency shortage is hampering Zimbabwe’s ability to purchase anti-retroviral therapy for people living with HIV, but the United Nations says the situation has not yet reached crisis levels.

In the past few months there have been reports that the country was facing an ARV drug shortage, but Sirak Gebrehiwot, a UN communications specialist, said this was a logistical issue that should be rectified soon.

Zimbabwe is supposed to pay US$6 million, as part of its commitment to procuring drugs, with Gebrehiwot explaining that this did not mean that an ARV shortage was looming.

“This is something that is being tackled at a high level, the Ministry of Health and the UN are involved in this, it will not get to a crisis,” he said.

Gebrehiwot said due to the foreign currency shortage, Zimbabwe was facing challenges in raising the required amount, but this was not because the country did not have the money.

Zimbabwe gets most of its ARVs from the Global Fund through a facility that is managed by the United Nations Development Programme and the American President’s Emergency Plan For Aids Relief (PEPFAR), who contribute $150 million.

This programme is expected to run until 2023.

The Zimbabwean government is supposed to contribute $6 million, which it has not done so.

Gebrehiwot said the shortage was a moderate one and there was no need for alarm.

Shannon Hader, A UNAids deputy executive director, who was in Zimbabwe recently, said the southern African country had a good record in handling the HIV issue.

Recently, a number of civil society organisations petitioned and held a demonstration against the government over the shortage of ARVs, with claims that some parts of the country such as Mashonaland West had run out of second line pediatric ART.

Health minister Obadiah Moyo has also insisted that the country had enough ARVs.

More than 1 million people are on antiretroviral treatment in Zimbabwe.

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