Thursday, April 18, 2024

ARV cost sharing proposals cause a scare

The Botswana Congress Party (BCP) Secretary for Health, Dr. Habaodi Hubona, says the provision of Anti-retroviral drugs to patients is a national priority so the government must not entertain employing cost sharing measures as the repercussions are too ghastly to contemplate.  

A medical doctor by training, Hubona has argued that any attempt to introduce cost sharing will only serve to deepen poverty and further complicate the management of HIV/AIDS.

She said it could also lead to reversing the gains Botswana has made in the fight against HIV/AIDS so far.

“While BCP acknowledges that the management of the HIV programmes is expensive, we do not think that cost sharing should be an option. We are aware that Batswana who have capacity to contribute to their health care are already doing that through the use of private health facilities,” said Hubona in a statement released by her party this week.

“As a country, we are already witnessing the emergence of drug resistance for AIDS and also the explosive TB situation which is driven mainly by HIV. The introduction of cost sharing can only worsen the situation and the cost to the nation will be much higher,” she said.

She said the current financial challenges in sustaining HIV programmes are due to lack of foresight and poor management by Government.

She said instead of wailing about costs, Botswana Government should utilize international assistance infrastructure.

“The financial challenges associated with HIV and AIDS and other related diseases like tuberculosis are well acknowledged globally. To this end, the global community has established financial support institutions such as the Global Fund for AIDS, TB and Malaria to assist high burden countries to cope with the challenge. A number of African countries have benefited immensely from these sources of funding and have strategically utilized the funds to strengthen their health systems,” she said.

Hubona has regretted Botswana has not benefitted from the free money due to its lack of foresight arguing that countries much richer than Botswana, like South Africa, have devised strategies to access millions of dollars from the global initiative. Instead of getting free money, Botswana has compromised the financial situation of the Republic by getting a loan from the World Bank worth millions of US dollars to support the HIV programme.┬á “How unpatriotic can the leadership be?” wondered Hubona.

She has criticized the government of poor leadership in its choice of medicines.

“A number of high burden countries have long realized that the use of patent medicines was not sustainable for chronic diseases like AIDS. Instead, they have opted for generic ARVs which are equally efficacious yet much cheaper. Countries with bigger economies and less burden per capita such as Brazil and India have also opted for generics. It is unclear why the BDP government continues to mortgage the country to patent medicines when international health authorities like the World Health Organization have clearly pronounced on generic ARV medicines, she said.


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