A staggering 15 000 HIV-positive people have been placed on waiting lists in the Free State where a moratorium implemented in November barred them from accessing ARVs at hospitals and clinics. Others, who failed to be placed on the ever expanding waiting list, were simply sent home to die.
According to an investigative report compiled by the AIDS Law Project and sent to health minister Barbara Hogan this week, the treatment of more than 15 000 people had been stopped in the province. The province had also discontinued CD4 monitoring, health workers had ceased referring patients in need of ARVs, there had been a fatal interruption in the treatment of hundreds who have been on ARVs for years and the province was failing to meet the treatment needs of many children.
Deputy Director General for Strategic Health Services in the national health department Dr Yogan Pillay revealed last night (THURSDAY) that he had personally been in contact with all drug manufacturer CEOs securing promises that they would fast track all the Free State drug orders, including those received last month.
‘These orders (to the Free State) will be filled by tomorrow,’ Pillay confirmed last night.
He said the province had made R10-million available from its own funds, the national health department had shifted R5,5-million from a conditional grant and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) had confirmed that it would make a further R11,2-million worth of drugs available to the Free State.
‘This means that 2000 people on waiting lists will start their treatment as soon as the drugs are available which will be within days,’ said Pillay.
He said a letter had been sent to all facilities in the Free State ordering the lifting of the moratorium and that the HIV Clinicians Society and Treatment Task Team at the SA National AIDS Council would be assisting the province with the protocol on how to prioritise patients who are not on treatment and helping to shrink the waiting list.
‘I am personally overseeing the entire process and I am happy that everything is on track,’ said an exhausted Pillay.
He added that health minister Barbara Hogan had appointed a task team to look at not just what had gone wrong with the supply of ARVs, but what was going wrong or presenting as challenges in many of the provinces.
‘The task team will start their work in the Free State,’ Pillay said.