Patient testimony shared today at the 8th SA AIDS Conference in Durban has revealed the severe consequences that HIV and TB medicine stockouts are having on those who live with these illnesses, particularly the poor and the rural-based, who are forced to spend precious money and time on making unnecessary journeys to and from health facilities.
The stories were shared by the multi-partner Stop Stockouts Project (SSP), following a series of community engagement initiatives that confirmed the persistence of medicine supply chain issues in South Africa, in spite of the existence of several government initiatives aimed at maximising access for health services.
“The risk posed by stockouts to the health of thousands of South Africans is clear, but less well reported is the financial burden that stockouts place on patients, who must repeatedly spend on transport and child-minding services, while often experiencing wage losses from time taken off from work. This can lead to indebtedness and a constrained ability to put food on the table and purchase other essentials,” says Project Manager Glenda Muzenda. “We have also found that people who are living with HIV and TB in marginal communities are less likely to speak up for their right to a consistent supply of essential public health care medicines, and other services. It has been the aim of SSP to broaden awareness of the stockouts problem in such communities, and to provide a channel of complaint and notification in the form of the SSP hotline.”
SSP monitors stockouts through a ‘hotspot’ mapping process, and increased surveillance of rural hospitals and clinics around the country. A growing bank of patient and healthcare worker testimony has helped SSP to identify and understand the root causes of medicine shortages. These reports are escalated to the Department of Health (DoH) and other stakeholders, in the interests of strengthening the supply chain for essential PHC medicines.
To report medicine stockouts and shortages send a Please Call Me, SMS or Phone
084 855 STOP (7867)
Boxed story: Typical examples of direct patient reports
Date: 31 March 2017
Name of Patient: Patience Mbiya*
I am 45 years old and I work in Ballito. Yes, I am taking antiretrovirals (ARVs) and I was diagnosed earlier 2016. I have been taking ARV’s for almost a year now.
They send us home and tell us to come some other time.
Yes, it once affected my work because at work I was given one (1) day off and I had to take two (2) days because I did not get my medication and the second day was unpaid.
I become unhappy when I miss a day without taking my medication.
I did not receive any medication, they told me to come by the following day.
*not her real name
Date: 31 March 2017
Name of Patient: Florence Bungane *
My name is Florence Bungane. I am unemployed and relying to the Public Health Facility for medical attention. I have been taking antiretrovirals (ARVs) for three years now. I am on first regimen and seven month pregnant. I recently experienced treatment shortage in my local clinic where I frequently get my treatment. Clinic has been giving me one week supply of treatment as they have been previously giving me 1 month supply. This is a hard situation where I am required to go to clinic on weekly basis and there are transport costs involved. Furthermore, they were expected to put me on Scan since I had pregnancy complications, However, they do not have a scan and they refused to give me a referral letter to Hospital where I could access the Scan for free, hence is a government institution. This is emotionally affecting me and it drains my strength as I am in this condition. I would appreciate if your project can assist as I do not have further hopes.
*not her real name