Mutare city health facilities are charging a US$3 fee for HIV anti-retroviral drugs (ART) which should be dispensed free at the clinics.
For people living with HIV, antiretroviral drugs are an assurance of life and putting any restrictive measures around their access is equally framing restrictions on their survival.
Such are the sentiments by members of the Zimbabwe National Network for People Living with HIV (ZNNP+) following development in which health facilities in Mutare demanding hard currency on collection of the life saving drugs.
The US$3 collection fee per person has seen many ART patients defaulting drug collection as they cannot afford to pay.
ZNNP+ Manicaland Provincial Coordinator, Mr Moses Chananuka said the move by the city clinics is retrogressive to gains attained so far.
“The city health clinics are requesting the payment of US$3 per patient regardless of age and number of people collecting from the same household. This has put a financial strain on households where most or all family members are on ART,” he said.
Mr Chananuka added that the new move is a drawback to measures such as Community ART Refill groups that had been put in place to ease the burden of the collection of the drugs.
“The Community ART Refill groups were put in place to reduce the cost of travelling to collect the drugs as one person would be responsible for the collection of drugs for at least 10 people. This has been fruitless in the city referral centres as the user fee is still being charged on group members in absentia,” Mr Chananuka said.
Mutare City Health Director, Dr Anthony Mutara said council is in the process of reviewing the fee as it prepares for the 2019 budget.
“We are currently in the process of reviewing our tariffs as we prepare for the 2019 budget. The issue of the user fees on the collection of ART treatment has been brought to our attention and most likely there is going to be a reduction in the fee for the coming year,” he said.
Mutare city health institutions remain the only ones in the province charging these fees as most councils have already scrapped off the charge.
Patients have resorted to out of town clinics such as Zimunya to collect their treatment.
An estimated 10 000 people in Sakubva and 3 000 in Dangamvura are living with HIV and need the life saving drugs.
Source – ZBC