Villagers stranded with medication

Antiretroviral drugs are reportedly piling up in rural areas as parents are failing to send the critical drugs to their children and grandchildren in neighbouring South Africa and Botswana due to the COVID-19 lockdown.

ARVs are used in combating HIV and AIDS by reducing multiplication virus thereby managing the viral load in patients. As a way of enhancing adherence to the treatment, rural communities in Matabeleland illegally send ARVs to their children based in neighbouring countries. Parents collect the drugs from local dispersing clinics on behalf of their children and grandchildren which are then smuggled into the neighbouring countries through cross border transporters popularly known as ‘omalayitsha’.

Clients are given 3 months of supplies that are collected on their behalf by their relatives and get smuggled across borders. However, the COVID-19 national lockdown has affected the movement of these essential drugs raising fears of defaulting among ART patients. Adherence to treatment is one of the key pillars in combating HIV and AIDS.

Habakkuk Trust Community Advocacy Action Teams have noted with concern the stocks of drugs that are piling in homes as parents fail to send drugs to their children. “Drugs are piling up in our homes and we will lose our children to both HIV/AIDS and COVID-19. Some of our children have resorted to sharing drugs in a desperate bid to avoid defaulting,” said one of the affected parents.

Another parent said she still has medication for her child from the last collection and she is due to collect in a few days. “I have been failing to send the medication and i don’t know what to do. Their medical records are this side and we normally collect and send them every 3 months,” she lamented.

Communities are calling upon relevant authorities to come up with conventional ways of the movement of these essential drugs across borders to avoid a catastrophe.

Source: Habakkuk Trust

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