There are mounting calls for the resignation of Minister of Health, John Seakgosing. This follows a three-week shortage of anti-retroviral drugs which has been attributed to a lack of political will and commitment to HIV treatment.
Across many government health facilities people who are dependent on the life-saving drugs provided by government were stranded as government hospitals had run out of ARVs.
Gaborone has been particularly hard-hit.
When the Sunday Standard team visited Princess Marina Hospital on Friday afternoon, there were hundreds of people queuing outside the ARV supply facility.
Because they had been waiting for long stretches, some people had become cranky and unruly. Out of desperation some were beginning to file out having received none of their monthly replenishments.
Some who had been lucky to receive rations said they had been given two-week supply instead of a month’s. The worst case was a young woman who said she could only get enough medication that would last her for only three days.
Others said some of the components that make up their combinations were not available and were transferred to private sector pharmacies.
The situation at Bontleng Clinic was not any better as was at Phase II Clinic.
A matron who spoke to Sunday Standard on condition of anonymity as she was not authorized to speak to the media said the two drugs that were in great shortage were nevarapine and alluvia.
She said it is these same two drugs that were used by many of the HIV positive people that are on therapy.
Sunday Standard findings were confirmed by BONELA, an independent Non-Governmental Organisation that focuses on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS.
A BONELA projects officer, Chirwah Mahloko, said their visit to Princess Marina Referral Hospital showed long queues with some clients having been coming for days without getting their stock.
Mahloko blamed the government medical supply chain at Central Medical Stores.
He said as BONELA they were worried that the shortages had degenerated into a national crisis as many people who have become dependent on ARVs will inevitably default.
He said they had interviewed some clients who had had their regimen changed without the necessary prescriptive instructions from the doctors.
“Changing drugs like ARVs without doing drug susceptibility tests is a very big risk,” said Mahloko.
He said of even bigger concern is that there was no counselling, let alone a national announcement by authorities on what is happening.
“The problem is Central Medical Stores. The Supply chain has collapsed. There is panic nationwide. We don’t as yet know what the situation is with far-flung areas,” said Mahloko.
He worried that if the situation was not arrested soon enough it would turn into a catastrophe.
“With ARVs, a week is more than enough to start feeling the effects of defaulting. Correcting it is not easy. It requires not just drugs but monitoring,”
Although ARV shortages have been ongoing for some time now the head of NACA (National Aids Coordinating Agency), Joseph Matlhare said he had not been formally informed by the Ministry of Health who are responsible for implementation on the ground.