Contaminated, Fake AIDS Drugs Flood Black Market in Shortages-Stricken Zimbabwe
September 11, 2007
On Monday, Zimbabwean Minister of Health David Parirenyatwa called on HIV/AIDS patients to buy their medicines only from registered pharmacies, clinics, and hospitals. Drug shortages linked to the country's economic crisis have resulted in AIDS drugs -- some of them contaminated, faked or diluted -- being sold at flea markets and hair salons. "These fake drugs increase chances of one becoming resistant to treatment and it becomes even more expensive for that person to remain on treatment," the state-run Herald newspaper quoted him as saying.
Zimbabwe has the world's highest official inflation rate -- 7,634 percent. However, independent estimates put the figure closer to 25,000 percent, and the International Monetary Fund forecasts it will reach 100,000 percent by year's end. According to the Herald, the "prohibitive" cost of antiretrovirals (ARVs) has fueled the underground market.
In Zimbabwe, where approximately 3,000 people die weekly from AIDS-related conditions, around 50,000 HIV patients are receiving ARVs from government hospitals. Another 300,000 are in urgent need of treatment, the Herald said.
Due to the scarcity of hard currency, HIV/AIDS drug manufacturers in Zimbabwe cannot import enough raw materials. But even when local generics are available, their cost of around 5 million Zimbabwe dollars ($166 U.S.) for a month's supply is far beyond the reach of most people: For instance, a teacher in a top government high school earns about 3 million Zimbabwe dollars ($100 U.S.) per month. In addition, the country's unemployment rate hovers around 80 percent.
Zimbabwean HIV/AIDS patients live in constant fear of not being able to find or pay for their medicines, say support groups. Treatment interruptions along with poor nutrition make patients more vulnerable to tuberculosis and other opportunistic infections, advocates note.
Agence France Presse
9.10.2007; Angus Shaw
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.