Thursday, April 9, 2020

Gov?t should crack the whip on ARV drugs thefts

There is growing evidence of collusion between some government officials, pharmacies and private doctors to steal government anti retroviral drugs for private sale.

Given the large market for ARV drugs in the region and, indeed, in Botswana, it was inevitable that those with access to these drugs would be tempted to make quick money from the illicit sale.

Given that ARVs are effectively life saving drugs, it is not an exaggeration to say that in countries where they are not provided for free, such drugs are literally looked at as gems.

The government should not only tighten security at its medical stores, it should take stern action against those people found to be illegally profiting from the sale of these drugs.

Citizens caught in these thefts should be sacked from their employment immediately, with non citizens being deported.

The government should treat ARVs like diamonds, especially in the face of the real costs and the impact the fight against HIV/AIDS is having on the whole nation.

It is distressing that throughout Southern Africa, HIV/AIDS is still taken casually, with some Heads of State still denying the existence of the disease.
Botswana has never played such jokes.

And from day one President Festus Mogae made it clear that the fight against HIV/AIDS would be his number one priority.

In line with Mogae?s grasp of the extent of the crisis the nation had to defer, postpone, forgo and, in some instances, cancel whole development projects as money was redirected towards fighting the disease.

We, therefore, cannot afford to turn a blind eye when a few individuals are as greedy as to enrich themselves by taking advantage of the nation?s plight.

As a newspaper, we have always looked at cases of the use of presidential powers to declare people as prohibited immigrants with suspicion, but we want to say that we would gladly endorse and celebrate the use of such powers against expatriates who abuse Botswana?s hospitality by indulging in the theft and selling of life saving drugs.

As a country, Botswana has gone to extraordinary lengths to convince the international donor communities that we need their assistance when it comes to fighting HIV/AIDS. We, therefore, cannot afford to squander the goodwill extended this country by such donors by failing to jealously guard whatever assistance they have extended to us.

We urge the government to take extraordinary measures to protect the track record of the country in its fight against HIV/AIDS.

We also urge the citizens to rally behind the government in its endeavour.
The nation has already lost a lot to get to where we are.

We should not allow ourselves to be disarmed of what is rightfully ours.

Again, what we should remember is that the absence of free drugs in the neighbouring countries necessarily creates a lucrative market.

Locally, because these drugs are expensive, pharmacists would not want to buy them at market prices.

They would do everything in their power to corrupt officials at the Medical Stores to get them at reduced rates.

Government should be awake to that reality and crack the whip by setting examples every time anyone is caught trying to steal them.

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