In Summary
  • The issue: ARV drugs
  • Our view: Government should deploy health workers facilitated with motorcycles or bikes to deliver ARVs to the infected people in their homes. In the alternative, health workers can be sent to health centre IIs to dispense the ARVs to those in need.

Many people in Kyenjojo District have fallen off the anti-retroviral treatment schedule because of long distances to the drugs collection health centres. The affected people say they cannot raise money for transport to collect their drugs. Some of them stopped taking their ARVs more than a year ago while others have taken several months without accessing the drugs.

It’s not far-fetched to infer that this situation is not limited to Kyenjojo, but is prevalent in parts of the country, especially the countryside where transport is a huge challenge due to either poor road network or poverty. We must do something and urgently.

In many parts of the country, health centre IIIs at sub-county level where HIV/Aids drugs are dispensed are more than 10km away. One may require between Shs10,000 to Shs15,000 for a return journey. This may appear little, but for a poor rural peasant, it’s a lot of money which may not be readily available to them. The constraint becomes worse when children too have to be transported to pick their ARVs.

This impediment is threatening to derail the progress the government has made in the fight against the scourge by enrolling infected people on ART to prolong their lives and reduce new infections by minimising their body viral load through consistent medication.

According to the UNAIDS report on HIV/Aids status in Uganda, in 2013 the number of new infections per year was less than the number of people starting to receive ARVs. In 2016, of the 1.4 million people estimated to be living with the deadly virus, 67 per cent (about 940,000) had started receiving ARVs and 28,000 died of Aids-related illnesses per year.

The aforementioned transport challenge in the rural areas, therefore, may derail this progress. It requires government intervention to rethink its strategies of accessing ARV drugs, especially in the in hard-to-reach areas.

Already, about 200,000 people in need of ARVs have not yet enrolled for treatment. The situation will get worse if those already on ART also drop off the treatment. Government should deploy health workers facilitated with motorcycles or bikes to deliver ARVs to the infected people in their homes.

In the alternative, health workers can be sent to health centre IIs at parishes, which are closer to the people, at specified times and dispense the ARVs to those in need. We can’t afford to surrender the precious progress we have so far made against the HIV/Aids pandemic.

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