August 22, 2013
A Zambian government antiretroviral (ARV) drug rationing system has alarmed HIV-infected residents who fear treatment interruptions. Although First Lady Dr. Christine Kaseba Sata acknowledged an ARV shortage in Zambia, Dr. Kamoto Mbewe, spokesperson for the Zambian Ministry of Health, asserted that Matero and Chingwere clinics in Lusaka did have a one-month supply of Atripla, the single-dose ARV, and would receive another shipment "soon."
Mbewe urged HIV-infected people not to panic, as existing ARV supplies were sufficient to last until expected shipments arrived in August and September. Pending shipments would include 55,260 bottles of Abacavir and 491,000 bottles of Truvada. Since January, the Zambian government has spent more than $16 million on "essential drugs," including ARVs. Zambian Ministry of Health plans called for all HIV-infected Zambians to transition eventually to the single-dose Atripla regimen.
Lloyd Nkumbula Bwalya, district coordinator for the Network of Zambian People Living with HIV/AIDS, feared that difficulties imposed by the rationing system -- daily queuing for drugs and delays in service -- would result in HIV patients missing scheduled ARV doses. Zambia's Minister of Health affirmed in a mid-year media briefing that maintaining an uninterrupted ARV supply for every HIV-infected Zambian was a priority.