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30 dying every day in the Free State – HIV Clinicians

Written by Health-e News

At least 30 HIV positive people have died in the Free State every day following a moratorium the province placed on initiating any new patients on anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs, according to conservative figures from the Southern African HIV Clinicians Society.

Drugs have started trickling into the province this week following the lifting of an almost four month moratorium which had been placed on the initiation of newly diagnosed HIV patients since November.

The HIV Clinicians Society figures were based on the assumption that pregnant women and children were prioritized and not included as part of the moratorium.

It made a ‘€œconservative’€ projection that about 20 babies was infected during birth every month, of which half will die before they turn one year.

It is estimated that at least 15 000 people needing ARVs were placed on waiting lists, but it is unknown how many people were simply turned away during a four-month moratorium which saw people with HIV in need of ARVs sent home and others who had been on the drugs for years being told that the clinic had run out of stock.

The province has since lifted the moratorium, but it is still struggling to get the drugs to its 28 treatment sites with only a few patients being initiated since last week.

This week Free State premier Beatrice Marshoff failed to mention the ARV crisis in her State of the Province address. She reportedly later denied assertions that the province’s health care system was in tatters.

Marshoff later told journalists that no-one was lying about the health situation in the Free State.

She said the provincial government could assure its citizens there was no crisis in health care and that the government would provide adequate health care.

Dr Yogan Pillay, Deputy Director General of Health in the national health department admitted this week that the province had ‘€œsevere financial pressures’€.

Meanwhile Anglican Church Bishops have expressed their shock at the Free State health department’€™s decision last year.

The Synod of Bishops of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, meeting at Modderpoort in the Free State, said the impact on the lives of patients and on the work of health professionals would be enormous.

‘€œSuch deliberate action by the Department of Health is irresponsible,’€ the statement said.

The church said it was ‘€œspeaking up on behalf of those whose voice may not be heard’€.

‘€œWe wholeheartedly support the South African Constitution’€™s affirmation that access to health care is a right of all citizens, and call on provincial and national government, in the name of God, to find a way to prevent this human catastrophe immediately.

‘€œWe assure those affected ‘€“ patients, families, health workers and government ‘€“ of our prayers and our support,’€ the bishops’€™ statement said.

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