Shortage of HIV drugs looms in Uganda again

Monday February 22 2016

Activists have raised the red flag of a looming shortage of HIV drugs in Uganda when stocks run out in September 2015. PHOTO | FILE

Activists have raised the red flag of a looming shortage of HIV drugs in Uganda when stocks run out in September 2015. PHOTO | FILE 

By LISA LAVENTURE

Uganda is facing yet another shortage of lifesaving HIV drugs, health activists warned last week.

The shortage has been attributed to the failure by authorities to import enough stock of antiretroviral therapy (ART) medicines last year.

Uganda’s Ministry of Health announced in December last year that the country had run out of imported HIV/Aids drugs.

However, in an interview with Reuters, Finance Ministry Permanent Secretary Keith Muhakanizi blamed the shortage on the depreciation of Uganda’s shilling, which has affected the government’s ability to finance drug imports.

To mitigate the shortage, the Global Fund against HIV, Malaria and Tuberculosis announced it would send an advance supply of antiretroviral medicine to Uganda.

Health activists said the stockout will affect 240,000 patients, who will be forced to modify treatment plans or stop taking their medicine altogether.

The activists noted that the frontloading of Global Fund financing will create a gap in funding and another drug shortage.

“Right now, you can say that there is no stockout in this country because of frontloading by Global Fund. But that will only last until August or September this year,” said Joshua Wambogo, the head of the Uganda Network of Aids Service Organisations (Unaso).

“After September, we will have another problem. The number of people in need of ART is increasing and Global Fund financing will run out early, awhile the government of Uganda has not addressed how it will fix this. If the government does not increase allocations of funding towards health, the upcoming shortage will be massive,” added Unaso.

“President Yoweri Museveni’s administration has largely failed to address the systemic failures in the delivery of healthcare in the country,” said Asia Russell, the executive director of Health GAP, an advocacy group.

UNAids classifies Uganda as