One key HIV drug unavailable

-Ramsammy says shipment due Thursday

Guyana is currently out of the antiretroviral drug, Efavirenz, which is part of this country’s first-line treatment programme but a shipment is expected by Thursday according to Health Minister, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy.

The Health Ministry made no announcement about the scarcity of the drug, and last night the National AIDS Committee (NAC) issued a press statement saying that it has received complaints from persons living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHAs) over the shortage.

The NAC reported that two drugs were in short supply; Efavirenz and Travada but Ramsammy said it is only one drug which is currently not available.

“Any new patient coming into the programme will not be able to access Efavirenz, but we have tracked the shipment and reports state that it is in Miami and should be here by Thursday morning”, the Minister said last night when contacted. He said an antiretroviral (ARV) shipment of the drug Travada came in two weeks ago.

New patients coming into the National Care and Treatment programme would not be able to access Efavirenz, Ramsammy said, noting that the delay was “beyond our control”.

He said the drug was ordered, but that it will only arrive this week. “It is a slight inconvenience due to this interruption in our supplies”, he added.

Since Efavirenz is part of the combination therapy provided by the national programme, the NAC said it has been advising PLWHAs on ‘first-line’ drugs against using only one of the combination drugs it they cannot access both, noting that if only one drug is used, HIV could become resistant to it. The NAC said it has also been encouraging PLWHAs to continue visiting or phoning in to the clinic for updates as well as seeking assistance from other PLWHA who may have extra drugs to carry them over this period.

The NAC also called on PLWHAs to continue using complementary therapies where possible, “especially in the mind-body category”, which includes relaxation techniques; spirituality and massage, in addition to bio-body practices in building the immune system (balanced diet, vitamins and minerals, herbal, pre-biotics etc).

Further, the committee said that it is seeking to fast-track a meeting with the Programme Manager at the National AIDS Programme Secretariat (NAPS), seeking confirmation of the due-date of expected shipment; feedback on the 2008/2009 annual ARVs supply plan as well as clarification as to both government and partners (international donors) commitment in guaranteeing sustained treatment to approximately 2,800 persons reportedly on ARVs.

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