Victor Maphosa Herald Reporter
Anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs dispensed for free to people living with HIV by but public health institutions are being diverted to illegal street markets where some unscrupulous nurses are selling a month’s supply for US$10, the Herald has learnt.
The theft of drugs for resale to people who are not on the official database of beneficiaries who get the drugs for free has created shortages, exposing the legitimate beneficiaries to a health risk. Cartels illegally selling the donated drugs involve nurses at opportunistic infections clinics and other staff.
Zimbabweans living in the Diaspora who periodically visit the country during holidays are the most targeted buyers and they get the drugs without a doctor’s prescription or proof that they should take the particular drugs. A nurse at Parirenyatwa opportunistic infections clinic (name withheld) is currently under internal investigation for allegedly selling ARVs after his alleged Whatsapp chats with one of the patients was leaked to the authorities.
The hospital’s clinical director, Dr Aspect Maunganidze, confirmed receiving a complaint of a nurse being accused of illegally selling the drugs saying internal investigations were underway.
“Yes we received the complaint and as we speak an investigating committee has been set to look into the allegations. If the committee sees merit of misconduct, then we will move to the next step, which is instituting a disciplinary hearing. So far, we have asked the accused nurse to respond to the allegations. He has written his own report in relation to the allegations,” Dr Maunganidze said.
A number of people on ARVs have complained over the conduct of staff at opportunistic infections clinics saying it had the effect of creating artificial shortages of the essential drugs.
Said a Zimbabwean engineer based in South Africa: “My friend, who is based in South Africa, introduced me to a nurse at Parirenyatwa opportunistic infections clinic (name withheld).
“I furnished my account details to check whether I was still an active beneficiary in the Zimbabwean database. The nurse checked and sent a screenshot to my friend communicating that I had been deactivated due my long stay in foreign land.
“My friend then gave me the nurse’s number so that he would supply me with the drugs illegally for US$10 a bottle,” he said. The man communicated with the nurse who offered to supply him with a five months’ supply of the drug for US$50.
Instead of paying, the man reported the case to one of the doctors at the opportunisitic infections clinic.
More to follow…