‘Efforts to get ARVs to patients are routinely failing at the last mile’

Doctors Without Borders says despite stocks being available, the drugs often don’t reach clinics.

Candles form a red ribbon during World Aids Day. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - There are warning's that efforts to get lifesaving Antiretroviral (ARV) drugs to HIV-positive patients in many Sub-Saharan African countries are routinely failing at "the last mile".

Doctors Without Borders says despite stocks being available, the drugs often don't reach clinics because of "cumbersome procedures, logistical challenges or lack of resources".

The group released its latest report at the international conference on Aids and STI's in Africa.

AFP is reporting that nationwide surveys conducted in South Africa show that between 20 and 25 percent of local health centres are unable to dispense the complete amount of one or more HIV or TB medication.

According to Doctors Without Borders' website, the report shows that improving medicine delivery to the last mile will require long-term commitment from countries and international donors, but it also details simple emergency measures that can quickly decrease the impact of stock outs on patients.

For example, people living with HIV in South Africa and Mozambique have started playing a role in monitoring medicine availability at clinic level and alerting central governments of stock outs.

Dr Gilles Van Cutsem, MSF's medical coordinator in South Africa said, "The system needs to be improved because we cannot fight HIV without medicines. To efficiently protect individuals' health and decrease HIV transmission in communities, Antiretroviral treatment needs to be taken for life, without interruption. But how can patients be expected to remain adherent to their treatment if their medicines are not available when and where they need them?"