Chairman of the National Aids Council, Sir Peter Barter is saddened and disappointed that People Living with HIV (PLHIV) in Papua New Guinea, on ART (Anti Retro Viral) treatment have suffered the indignity of having no drugs available to them at the sites where they are accessed.
He has described the situation as a national emergency as lives of people are at risk. He called on all stakeholders including international agencies to ensure ART procurement is maintained at a high level of efficiency
Sir Peter along with other council members are alarmed that people, deserving of the treatment, that is life long, are being denied the services through shortage of supplies.
As a show of this concern, he has directed the NAC and its secretariat of the moral duty as mandated coordinating authority to give as much support and assistance to the National Department of Health to ensure swift action is taken to remedy the situation.
Following discussions with the Minister for Health & HIV/AIDS, Jamie Maxtone -Graham and acting secretary for health Pascoe Kase, Sir Peter has directed the National Aids Council Secretariat to work with the NDoH and other stakeholder partners to a ensure a rapid resolution of the drugs shortage.
The chairman maintained the council’s stance and message for patients on ARV, is that this medication should be adhered to daily and is for the life of the PLHIV.
“The Council rejects the notion in yesterday’s Post-Courier report that PLHIV on ART can have a drug holiday because of the dangers of drug resistance,” he said.
“This is technically, medically and morally wrong as between 200-500 lives as a conservative estimate are placed unnecessarily in danger because of wrong and irresponsible medical advice.”
Sir Peter emphasised the urgency of getting people back on treatment rather than waste time pointing fingers.
“Whilst it is important to know how this shortage occurred, it can be done later, firstly we need to locate a shipment of drugs that have either arrived, or about to arrive and get them to those needing treatment,” he said.
“The next step is to procure drugs for the short and long term and in doing so establish how the shortage occurred.
“I personally will not rest until everyone is back on treatment and I am confident the minister and acting health secretary will do all possible to overcome this terrible situation.”