NGOs react to PM’s statements on shortage of ARVs



MBABANE: : Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) said the available four(4) months Anti-Retro-Viral(ARVs) buffer stock as confirmed by Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini in Parliament was a serious threat to over 70 000 Emaswati who are on HIV treatment.

Speaking to this Swaziland News, Emmanuel Ndlangamandla, the Executive Director of Coordinating Assembly of Non-Governmental Organizations (CANGO) said ideally the stock should be for seven (7) months; hence the latest sentiments by the PM were an indicated that the financial crisis in the country was serious.

Ndlangamandla advised government to stop some capital projects and purchase enough ARVs, as human life is more important. “First of all one can appreciate the government commitment to ending AIDS Agenda as government took the responsibility to procure ARVs when many governments depend on donors. However, the 4 months buffer stock, as ideally should be seven (7) months is a serious threat to the lives of over 70 000 people on ARVs. The situation is a clear indication that the financial crisis is very serious “said the CANGO Director.

Prime Minister Ambrose Mandvulo Dlamini told Parliament this week that available ARVs will last for four (4) months adding that the country was working tirelessly to ensure that the eradication of HIV/AIDS was a success.

The PM’s sentiments comes after media reports suggesting that the government was fast running out of ARVs hence the lives of people living with HIV were at stake. The Head of Government said his office through the National Emergency Response Council on HIV/AIDS (NERCHA) had embarked on a campaign to reduce HIV prevalence among the youth. He acknowledged that eSwatini has the highest HIV prevalence in the world at 27% but clarified that the country was working very hard to reduce the infection rate.

“Our main focus is to reduce the prevalence particularly among the youth. When NERCHA released these reports, it suggested that the prevalence rate was high among teenagers especially from 15 to 20 years. It also shows that the prevalence was high among males who are forty (40) years. So this shows coloration between these male teenagers, where the major problem is. NERCHA is trying to resolve the problem of relationships between older men and teenagers. Nonhlanhla Dlamini, the Director of the Swaziland Action Group Against Abuse (SWAGAA) said her organization had a huge interest in the shortage of ARVs as most victims of sexual abuse end up contracting the virus. Responding to questions from this publication, the Director said this was a serious crisis to the lives of the people who are living with HIV, adding that, it was unfortunate that this happened at the time when the country was about to win the war against the pandemic.

“This is a serious crisis in the sense that once these people who are on ARVs stop the treatment due to non-availability of the drugs, the virus will become resistant. Furthermore, this will demotivate the people who are willing to voluntarily take the treatment if they find that there is none in the health centers. As SWAGAA, we have a huge interest in this matter because most victims of sexual abuse end up contracting the virus. As these people who are on ARVs are our relatives, we therefore appeal to government to prioritize this and make sure the medication is available” said the SWAGAA Director.

A LiSwati citizen, who happens to be on the ARV treatment said the non-availability of drugs, will affect the economy of the country as people will die and there would be less production. He said, such issues might further discredit the credibility of the current government-adding that once a State failed to fulfill its social obligations then that country is a failing State.

“This will surely affect the economy as the people who are expected to be productive will die and the country might find itself struggling. Furthermore, this might trigger people to rebel against the government because citizens expect government to provide services like health and education” he said.

When reached for comments by this publication, Khanya Mabuza, the Director of the National Emergency Response Council on HIV/AIDS (NERCHA) said, countries in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) made a commitment that they will never run out of ARVs because that would be a threat to human life. “ Even though here in eSwatini they are not sufficient enough, at least they are available and we hope they will continue to be available as they are on government budget, however, this will depend on the availability of funds” said the NERCHA Director.