ARVs drugs thieves nabbed

ARVs drugs thieves nabbed

THABA-TSEKA – POLICE in Thaba Tseka have cracked a syndicate allegedly stealing antiretroviral (ARV) tablets from Paray Hospital and selling them on the black market. Three members of the syndicate were nabbed after a tip-off by hospital administrator Sister Clara Rakhomo.
One of the members, a cleaner at the hospital, has since been suspended.

Police are investigating the involvement of the other two, a porter and a TV screener, as they believe that the syndicate could be much bigger and its operation wider. Rakhomo told Deputy Health Minister, ’Manthabiseng Phohleli, last Friday that she called the police earlier this month after hearing rumours that some people were buying ARVs on the black market.

She said her informers told her that the people had paid M5 000 for the drugs.
“I did not know where these people were from but I had heard that they were still around because they were given the drugs that they did not want,” Rakhomo said.

“So I decided to take action the following day. I went to the police station and reported the theft.”
She said a police raid at a house recovered one box of ARVs.

Rakhomo said the person who was found with the ARVs told the police that she was not working alone.
“They were three and unfortunately they are not nurses or doctors,” she said.

“One is a cleaner, another a TV screener while the third one is a porter.”
“We have taken legal action against these people. One person is suspended, the other two’s issue is in hands of the police,” she said.
“We have estimated that the drugs that were found from these people were worth M10 000 because one box contains 50 packets.”
Rakhomo said she is disappointed that the employees are robbing the hospital to enrich themselves at a time when the government is struggling to buy drugs.

There are thousands of people who urgently need those drugs, she said.
ARVs are free in government hospitals but there seems to be a huge demand of them on the black market.
Rakhomo said because Lesotho is one of the countries hardest hit by HIV, with the second highest HIV prevalence rate after Swaziland, it is important to ensure that more people have access to the drugs.

Lesotho’s HIV prevalence rate was 25 percent in 2016 and has been hovering around that level since 2005. In 2016 an estimated 330 000 people were living with HIV in Lesotho and 9 900 died from AIDS-related illnesses.

Overall HIV incidence declined from 30 000 new infections in 2005 to 21 000 in 2016 but the battle against the disease is still far from being won.
Part of the problem is that people are not getting tested and those diagnosed positive have either not enrolled for the medication or are defaulting.
Deputy Minister Phohleli said she is disappointed because “hospital workers should be the ones who care for everything at the hospital, the equipment and drugs”.

“People should know that this is illegal. Let’s work hand in hand to reduce crime and improve the lives of Basotho infected by HIV and Aids,” she said.
Lesotho relies heavily on international aid help to provide free ARVs.

Avert.org says HIV care and treatment makes up the largest proportion of spending on HIV/AIDS in Lesotho. It says Lesotho funded 47 percent of treatment and care in 2015, with the Global Fund chipping in with 24 percent, PEPFAR funding 15 percent and other donors providing the remainder.
The scale-up of antiretroviral treatment (ART) in Lesotho has been increasing in recent years and stood at 53 percent of eligible adults in 2016. This equates to 168 000 people living with HIV.

ART coverage for children now stands at 56 percent after years of a steady increase. In June 2016, Lesotho became the first African country to implement a ‘Test and Treat’ strategy which makes it mandatory for the person who tests HIV positive to be enrolled for ART regardless of their CD4 count.

Thooe Ramolibeli

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