arvs.jpgThe National Aids Council (NAC) has allayed fears that some government hospitals had run out of first line and second line anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs), saying US$16 million was set aside for the procurement of ARV’s this year.

In the past few weeks, some HIV positive people started receiving two weeks supply of their medication instead of a month’s supply from some government institutions, while those, who have developed drug resistance and needed to be switched to the second line treatment, were failing to get the appropriate drugs.

NAC Research and Documentation Coordinator, Mr Freeman Dube said the country has enough ARV’s and if there are any challenges, they are probably a result of the distribution network.      

More than 593 000 people are in need of ARVs in the country, but so far about 400 000 are accessing the drugs under the public sector programme, leaving a treatment gap of more than 190 000.

There are different classes of anti-retroviral drugs that act on different stages of the HIV life cycle.

Most of the HIV positive people, who are accessing ARVs from the public sector, are on first line therapy and less than 50 000 are on the second line therapy.

Most patients eventually need to switch to the second line treatment because of side effects and drug resistance.

Unfortunately the second line therapy consists of expensive drugs.

Zimbabwe this year phased out the Stavudine based first line therapy and adults are now getting the Tenofovir based regimen and Zidovudine based regimen for children.

The country declared a period of emergency over the AIDS epidemic in May 2002, which authorises the government to override patents and can allow local companies to produce generics of the otherwise protected drugs, but so far, no local company has started manufacturing drugs in the second line therapy.