Shortage of HIV Medication Poses Problems for Tanzania

By Michelle Betton | June 11, 2013

Tenofovir is an HIV medication that keeps millions of people healthy, but in Tanzania, a shortage has put people living with HIV at risk.

James Pursey/EGPAF

Beginning in July, Tanzania will face a stock out of Tenofovir, a key HIV medication, meaning that HIV-positive Tanzanians taking Tenofovir will not have access to their HIV medication until more supplies arrive. An emergency shipment is expected between mid-and late August, but a full shipment could be unavailable for up to six months.

As demand for Tenofovir-based medication regimens increases, manufacturers are having trouble keeping up—leading to shortages and stock outs not only in Tanzania, but in countries around the world.

This recent stock out comes in advance of Tanzania’s launch of Option B+ for the prevention of transmission of HIV from mother to child, a new protocol that offers lifelong antiretroviral therapy to all pregnant or breastfeeding women living with HIV, rather than relying on laboratory testing to determine eligibility for treatment. Starting so many women on lifelong treatment requires a large, continued supply of antiretroviral medication, and with other African countries starting to implement Option B+, even larger quantities will be needed across the continent.

Tanzania has previously dealt with stock outs of HIV test kits. Obstacles such as these seriously affect the way health services can be provided, and affect clients’ health. Ensuring that mothers, children, and families maintain their health and well-being long-term is critical. Governments, suppliers, and non-governmental organizations must work together to provide consistent health care to HIV-positive clients.

Obstacles are not limited to stock outs. Other barriers include a lack of health care workers to provide care to HIV-positive and HIV-affected people; poor infrastructure and transportation systems; and stigma that clients face from family and community members because of HIV status. These challenges keep HIV-positive and HIV-affected people from accessing lifesaving prevention and treatment programs.

The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) works with governments, international organizations, and communities to counteract these barriers so that services and treatment are available to as many people as possible. Strengthening health systems, building capacity of national governments and local organizations, raising awareness, and providing education about HIV in communities creates a more conducive environment in which families can live long, healthy lives.

Michelle Betton is Associate Communications Officer at the Foundation, based in Washington, D.C.