Price cuts hit ARVs

HIV-positive Zimbabweans have slammed President Robert Mugabe's populist policy of slashing prices, saying this has led to critical shortages of the life-prolonging anti retroviral drugs (ARVs).
"This is matter of life and death," said an HIV positive woman in her late 20s. "The drugs

have disappeared from pharmacies. Mugabe should simply stop politicking with our lives.”
Before the price slash, a month’s supply of a fixed-dose combination of antiretroviral cost Z$1,2 million. Following the price reversal, they were selling for $600,000. But they have disappeared, causing critical repercussions for patients on treatment.
Zimbabwe, which has the world’s fourth highest rate of HIV infection, is going through a severe economic crisis with serious fuel and food shortages due to recurring droughts and the government’s fast-track land redistribution programme, which have disrupted agricultural production and slashed export earnings.
“People are giving up (their) drugs because they can’t find them. Since the prices were cut, ARVs have become scarce,” said Lyn Francis, who runs The Centre, an HIV/AIDS NGO with 4,500 registered clients. Francis warned that people who were forced to interrupt their treatment regimen because of scarcity were putting their health at risk. “These drugs need to be taken continuously … any kind of hiccup can cause resistance [to the ARVs],” she noted.
According to Douglas Shoniwa, president of the Retail Pharmacists Association, even local generic drug manufacturers were being hamstrung by the scarcity of foreign currency.

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