HIV/AIDS patients fail to access drugs as clinics demand $1per visit

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GOROMONZI: A number of people in need of HIV antiretroviral treatment (ART), supplied for free by the government, are failing to access the drugs on time as some health centres here are demanding that each patient should pay $1 on each visit, putting the lives of the many at risk.

Villagers in Mwanza area said because of the economic challenges in the country, some people in the area were failing to get their treatment on time as they were unable to fork out the required $1 to access the pills.

“You might think $1 is a very little sum but people here are facing serious economic hardships that they cannot access the dollar required at the health centres to access the drugs and as a result they go for days without taking their medication,” a villager in Mwanza who asked not to be named said.  

People on ART need to take the drugs every day.  Another female HIV patient in the area questioned why they were required to pay the one dollar when ART drugs are supplied for free at other health centres in the country.

“I used to get my drugs for free in Chitungwiza before I relocated to Goromonzi last year.  I was shocked when I went to Mwanza Clinic and I was told that I needed to pay a dollar every time I came to collect new treatment.  That is unfair to us as besides walking long distances as we have no money public transport to get to the clinic, we are also being forced to pay money for something that is supplied for free by the government,” she said.

“As a result, some people we know are on ART are failing to collect their drugs on time as they are turned away if they don’t have the required dollar and this poses a serious risk to their lives,” she added.

A health worker at Mwanza Clinic confirmed this week that every HIV patient in need of drugs was required to pay $1 per every visit for administrative purposes.

“Patients should access their drugs for free but we have administrative issues and money is required for that as the government does not fully support all our operations here. We need money to pay allowances for volunteers who assist with cleaning the clinic and washing laundry used by the patients and the government is not paying them,’ the nurse said.

The government, through the National AIDS Council (NAC), is now providing ART to 1 million people living with HIV. According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), due to access to antiretroviral treatment, 49 000 deaths were averted in 2016 while 393 000 deaths have been averted since 2006 in Zimbabwe.