Lusaka — The Zambian government is putting in place stringent measures aimed at ensuring a sufficient supply of anti-retroviral drugs. The drugs are essential for those infected with HIV/AIDS, but the medicine currently is in short supply. AIDS patients have had to travel more than 30 kilometers from their homes - often on foot - to reach clinics, where all too often they are told that the medicine has run out.
This is the second time this year that the more than 500,000 people living with HIV in Zambia have had to cope with what the Ministry of Health calls rationing of the drugs - a system that some patients here have been contending with for more than a decade.
It is a bitter pill to swallow, especially because obtaining medicine is not as easy as one would think. A check at some clinics in Lusaka shows that patients must turn up at 4 a.m. to queue services they will only receive hours later.
Zambia's Ministry of Health admits there is a challenge regarding the stocks of ARVs in the country, which it refers to not as a shortage, but as "rationing."
Chikuta Mbewe is the deputy director of pharmaceutical services. He said part of the problem was an ongoing switch in Zambia and other countries from one drug, Truvada, to another, Atripla. Mbewe said complications with the switch have driven down the stocks of both drugs.
"I must hasten to say that there are a lot of planned shipments that have already started arriving in the country. We think now we are in the normalization curve, so to say. We hope we can get back to our normal levels," he said.