Shortage Of Anti-Retroviral Drugs Affects HIV Patients

Mr. Kweku Agyemang-ManuPersons Living with HIV (PLHIV) are unable to get regular access to Anti Retroviral (ARV) drugs to improve their life expectancy, due to shortage of the drugs.

As a result, the National AIDS Control Programme (NACP) is rationing the distribution of the ARV drugs to PLHIV.

This came to light when the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament met yesterday to consider the 2012 Performance Audit Report of the Auditor-General on the Management and Distribution of Anti-Retroviral Drugs.

According to the report, one of the major causes of the shortages was the delays encountered during the in clearing the drugs from the airport by the Ministry of Health.

“Ghana Supply Company Ltd., the main clearing agent for the Ministry of Health, is required to clear the ARVs within eight days on arrival at the airport. Failure to clear ARVs within the eight days leads to the payment of demurrage of GH0.10 per kilo per day,” it said and added that the delay in clearing the drugs from the airport attracted demurrage charges amounting to GH¢24,551.40.

Also, the report alleged that some of the accountants of the health facilities that distribute the ARV drugs collect monies from the HIV patients and keep the monies in their personal accounts.

The committee, chaired by the Member of Parliament for Dormaa Central, Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, invited the officials from the Ministry of Health, Ghana AIDS Commission, Ghana Supply Co. Ltd, NACP, Ghana Revenue Authority, and other institutions under the Health Ministry to explain the shortages.

Explaining the cause of the delays in clearing the drug from the airport, the Commissioner General of the Ghana Revenue Authority, George Blankson, said the delays were caused by the Ministry of Health’s delays in presenting declaration documents to the Authority for clearance.

He further explained that the drugs were usually consigned to financiers and added that before the Ministry of Health could clear the drugs from the airport, ownership of the consignment needed to be amended and changed from the financiers to the Ministry.

“Until the Ministry amends ownership of the consignment, we are unable to clear the goods,” he said.
Mr. Blankson said there were other certifying companies such as the Food and Drug Board (FDB) that certified goods before they were cleared and added that huge consignments such as the ARV drugs usually took some time before they were certified and subsequently cleared.

The Director-General of the Ghana AIDS Commission, Dr. Angela El-Adass, said although the fight against HIV/AIDS was yielding results, local funding needed to be improved because external sources were dwindling.
She said the Global Fund, which was the major financier of HIV/AIDS programmes in the country, had reduced its funding because the country was seen to be reaching a middle income status.

Dr. El-Adass said HIV/AIDS programmes were capital intensive and stressed the need for the government to increase its funding because the external source of funding was decreasing.

She hinted that the commission was considering the possibility of establishing an AIDS Fund to purchase ARV drugs and finance HIV/AIDS programmes.
She urged all stakeholders to come together to combat the disease and also ensure that PLHIVs were well catered for.
Before concluding her remarks, Dr. Adass took a swipe at the Ghana Audit Service for not consulting the commission before preparing its report.
However, the Deputy Auditor General, Yaw  Sefah, denied the allegation and said that the service, during its investigations, visited the commission before visiting any other institutions.

The committee also considered the Performance Audit Report of the Auditor-General on the management and distribution of Anti-Retroviral Drugs in the country. -Yaw Kyei

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