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08.02.2006 General News

More anti-retroviral drugs for PLWHAs arrive

By GNA

Accra, Feb. 8, GNA - More than 10,000 kilograms of Anti-Retroviral Drugs (ARV) from the International Dispensary Association (IDA) has arrived in the country to boost the current stock for the treatment of 6,000 patients within the year.

The consignment, together with what had been delivered previously, would be adequate for the 6,000 patients at a reduced cost of 252 dollars per patient for first line treatment.

So far three of six companies had completed deliveries that were delayed due to flight difficulties.

Ms Salamatu Abdul Salam, Chief Director of the Ministry of Health, said this on Wednesday when the Integrated Social Development Centre (ISODEC), a nongovernmental organisation (NGO), presented a petition to the Ministry after a picketing.

The aim of the picketing was to get the Minister of Health to explain to People Living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHAs) why the shortage of ARVs still persisted.

They held placards some of which read: "Keep the Promise"; "ARVs for Survival"; "Shorten the Distance, All the Regions Need it"; and "ARV is a Need Not a Want".

Ms Abdul Salam said the national Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) programme started in Ghana in 2003 when the supply of ARVs were limited to patented products which came with an average cost of 625 dollars per patient.

She said the limited resources available demanded that the country moved from the supply and use of patented drugs to generic medicines, which had the same potency and efficacy but were less expensive. She said the process of issuing a compulsory licence, in line with the World Trade Organisation's requirements, was time intensive and involved a cross-sectoral collaboration between the Ministries of Health, Trade and Industry, Justice and Attorney-General and Finance and Economic Planning and the Food and Drugs Board.

Miss Victoria Adongo, Programme Officer of ISODEC, representing the Coalition for Free Universal Access to Anti-Retroviral Treatment (UCAART), said PLWHAs, who visited the treatment centres failed to secure adequate supplies.

She noted in the petition that those who were to commence treatment were turned away. "The volatile supply of the life saving drug has caused panic, worry, confusion, fear, uncertainty and even death among the infected and affected."

Miss Adongo appealed for investigations to be conducted in order to remove the barriers to the availability and distribution of the drugs and to scale up treatment to include other regions. She said the Government should consider making the drugs free since the majority of PLWHAs could not afford the 50,000 cedis required adding that a fund should be established into which every citizen would contribute.

Dr Nii Akwei Addo, Programme Manager of the National AIDS Control Programme, said they were seriously working to increase the number of patients receiving treatment to 15,000.

He said the Eastern Region had begun treatment of the CD4 cells, which formed the basis for starting treatment, adding that plans were far advanced to extend the treatment to other regional capitals and districts.

"We are working at modalities to establish a Ghana AIDS Fund to ensure sustainability of the programme," he said.

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