AT least 66 000 people on anti-retroviral drugs risk losing their allocation if no steps are taken owing to a new regimen and the withdrawal by some donors, a health official has said. Principal Director for Curative Services in the Ministry of Health and Child
Welfare Dr Christopher Tapfumaneyi said they were seeking alternative ways of funding the gap created by the withdrawal of some development partners.
Donors have indicated that they will no longer continue funding the HIV/Aids programme in the country.
He was giving oral evidence on Monday before a Senate Thematic Committee on HIV/Aids that was seeking appraisal on what the ministry was doing on the provision of ARV.
Dr Tapfumaneyi said the decision by the World Health Organisation to raise from 200 CD4 count to 350 for people who qualify to be on the programme led to the surge of the number creating a strain on the programme.
“We used to have a situation where we had a three-year supply for everyone whom we put on ART, that number has been reduced. By the end of this year about 66 000 will not have their medicine if no step is taken,” said Dr Tapfumaneyi.
He said the Global Fund, one of the partners, had indicated that they will stop funding HIV/Aids programmes, although of late they have had a change of heart.
There was need, he said, for Treasury to fund HIV/Aids programmes, if the country is to achieve its goals.
Treasury, said Dr Tapfumaneyi, had not disbursed US$10 million that it allocated them in its 2012 National Budget to assist patients in user fees.
“We have no option but to rely on our Ministry of Finance so that we continue pursuing our programmes,” he said.
Bubi Umguza MP Cde Lot Mbambo (Zanu-PF) asked what challenges the ministry was facing in local procurement of drugs.
In response, Dr Tapfumaneyi said the State Procurement Board took long in adjudicating tenders.
When they raise concern over the issue, the SPB would tell the ministry should not teach them how to do their work.
“There are times when we would have wanted to be proactive, to be quicker, we have situations where they have been delays and when you tell the SPB, they will tell you that they know what they are doing,” he said.
Turning to the pricing of ARVs, Dr Tapfumaneyi said locally produced drugs were more expensive than imported ones.
He said one challenge is that while no tax and import duty is being levied on imported drugs, the State levied tax and duty on other things like packaging and consumables.
Dr Tapfumaneyi said WHO has recommended for member countries to move to a new drug regimen but Zimbabwe could not do the same because local manufactures had no capacity to do that.
The HIV/Aids drugs were being funded by five institutions.
These are Global Fund (37 percent), National Aids Council (15 percent) Clinton Health Access Institution (7 percent), Expanded Support Programme (27 percent) and the United States government (14 percent).