THE Treatment Advocacy and Literacy Campaign says it is disturbed and saddened with the news that ARVs are being abused by HIV negative drug addicts.
TALC national director Felix Mwanza has called upon all stakeholders to intensify community sensitisation on the dangers of taking ARVs when one is not HIV positive.
“As we look forward to further information regarding this matter (as reported by a psychiatric doctor at the Chainama Hospital in Lusaka), we would like to ask the Ministry of Health to further investigate this issue. Suffice to mention however, that, ARVs abuse in the manner reported by the psychiatric doctor is not uncommon especially here in Southern Africa,” he said. “In one of our neighbouring countries, ‘Drug Addicts’ ambush recipients of care and snatch their medication upon them receiving it from the pharmacies in different health facilities and abuse it in all manner and forms.”
He noted that there were over a million people currently on ART in Zambia and news of abuse of the ARV drugs by some sectors of the community risks reversing the gains that have been made by government and its partners in putting people living with HIV on ART.
Mwanza noted with displeasure that the trend does not only rob people living with HIV of the much needed life-saving drugs but that it also puts those abusing the drugs at risk of developing drug resistance in an event that the abusers become HIV positive during the period of abusing the said drugs.
“TALC is also concerned with the impact that this development will have on other HIV interventions such as Pre Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) which is supposed to be accessed by HIV negative people,” he said.
“Further the entire issue poses negative connotations especially on people to be initiated and those already on ART as society might start seeing them to be incongruent with the rest of others due to the perception that ARVs makes them high.”
Mwanza appealed to recipients of care to secure their ARV drugs upon receipt from their health care providers.
“Secondly the Ministry of Health and all stakeholders should streamline and strengthen the ARV due diligence monitoring mechanisms in order to prevent such occurrences at all client management levels,” said Mwanza.
“Furthermore, all stakeholders administering ARVs should ensure that only those that are HIV reactive are given such medication and in case of a buddy picking up drugs for someone, contact with the actual owner of drugs should first be established. The organisation is also calling upon all stakeholders to intensify community sensitisation on the dangers of taking ARVs when one is not HIV positive. This trend if left unchecked will lead to severe health complications. ARVs should only be taken by those that are HIV reactive and for Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) which is a prevention intervention by negative people at most risk of infection upon advice from health providers.”