THE Ministry of Health says there is no shortage of Anti-retroviral drugs in Zambia.
Permanent Secretary for Technical Services, Professor Lackson Kasonka however explains that due to the world shortage of old ARV drug called Zidovudine, some people who have not transitioned to the new drugs have been affected.
Professor Kasonka clarified that shortage of Zidovudine is as result of its poor side effect profile hence increasing its low demand thereby disturbing its global supply chain and leading to its erratic supply in the last two years.
He however said in the quest to provide safer and more efficacious drugs, the optimization of antiretroviral therapy has since started.
“To this effect, 98.5 per cent of the 1,229,781 receiving ARVs are now receiving the newer, safer, easier to take and more efficacious dolutegravir containing ARV combinations called Tenofovir disoproxil fumarate/ Lamivudine/ Dolutegravir commonly referred to as TLD or Tenofovir alafenamide / Emtricitabine/ Dolutegravir commonly referred to as TAFED. These drugs are fixed into a tablet and given as one tablet per day,” he said.
Professor Kasonka said the newer combinations were introduced in Zambia in 2018 and have since led to over 96% of Zambian People Living with HIV receiving ARVs to have the virus suppressed resulting in a healthier and more productive population.
He however said there still remain about 6,000 individuals who are taking old ARV drug called Zidovudine which the Ministry of Health has been transitioning from to TLD or TAFED.
“To this effect, the Ministry of Health in consultation with the Civil Society Organizations representing People Living with HIV and implementing partners has made a decision to accelerate the transition of individuals on this drug to better, safer and easier-to-take ARVs,” he said.
Professor Kasonka said government remains committed to ensuring people living with HIV in Zambia have adequate access to quality and efficacious anti-retroviral drugs, for a longer healthier life.
He said guidance has been provided to health workers to fast-track the transition from Zidovudine-containing ARV combinations to TLD or TAFED in view of new developments, based on scientific evidence generated from the African continent including Zambia.
He said a further reminder is given to dispense a six-month supply of anti-retroviral drugs as per standard guidance.