A coalition of civil society organizations including the Network of Zambian People Living With HIV/AIDS (NZP+), the Coalition of Zambian Women Living with HIV/AIDS (COZWHA), the Treatment Advocacy and Literacy Campaign (TALC), the Zambia Network of Religious Leaders Living with or personally affected by HIV and AIDS (ZANARELA) and the AIDS Healthcare Foundation Zambia (AHF Zambia) have expressed their grave concern regarding the current HIV test kit shortage nationwide. They have warned that unless the situation is addressed immediately, the community of people living with HIV and AIDS (PLA) will have no option but to embark on mass action. Recent developments such as the delivery of expired test kits to facilities in February and the expiration of about 500,000 test kits in the country’s’ medical store has highlighted Zambia’s poor supply chain management system. If this system is not dramatically improved there are likely to be grave consequences for the nation’s HIV/AIDS response.
“As a country that is moving towards meeting the ambitious 2020 UNAIDS target of getting 90% of all people living with HIV to know their HIV status, 90% of all people with diagnosed HIV infection to receive sustained antiretroviral therapy and 90% of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy to have viral suppression, it is disheartening to learn that we are currently experiencing stock outs of HIV testing kits in most of our health centers. Furthermore, it is sad and disappointing to learn that 500,000 HIV test kits expired in the month of February 2016 alone and are scheduled for destruction” said Eunice Sinyemu, National Director, NZP+
The coalition also expressed concern about logistics for ensuring that essential drugs and diagnostic materials move efficiently between the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Community Development, Medical Stores and the health facilities responsible for making sure that medical stocks get to the intended beneficiaries on time.
“Too many questions come to mind here. What could have caused these stock outs? Is it that someone was negligent in their duty and ended up wasting 500,000 test kits bought from either donor or tax payers money? Are there no mechanisms within medical stores that could have detected that the kits were due to expire and could have been sent out to the facilities for use long before the expiry date? Is it that the mistake was at provincial, district or facility level?” said Carol Nyirenda, Director, COZWHA
“We, as civil society organizations working towards improving health service delivery in Zambia would like to put it on record that we strongly condemn the carelessness and negligence that has resulted in the shortage of test kits and the eventual destruction of the expired ones and would like to urge the Government of the republic of Zambia, through the Ministry of Health, to sort out this mess urgently” said Felix Mwanza, National Director, TALC.
The group called on the government to ensure that someone is held accountable for these avoidable lapses in HIV test kit supply. The coalition stressed that CSOs have a moral responsibility to speak out against acts of negligence, corruption and misapplication of resources in any public office that might bring disrepute to the country and untold suffering to innocent Zambian citizens.
“The government should never allow our beloved country to be put in this position again. Such deeds not only bring disrepute to the nation as a whole but also inflict great suffering on the innocent citizens of Zambia most in need of health care and other essential services. It is clear that a large part of the problem is the medical stores’ inability to ensure smooth supply of commodities to facilities. If we must avert future occurrences, there needs to be an in-depth evaluation of the current supply system, in order to resolve these problems and to promote efficiency” added Dr. Lawson Simapuka, National Medical Director, AHF Zambia.
Dr Lawson Simapuka