31 January 2005
Response to Debswana cutting ARV supply to former employees
Last week there were reports in the media that DEBSWANA has terminated the supply of Anti-retroviral drugs to some of the 461 workers the company dismissed for participating in an illegal strike last year. DEBSWANA says it has decided to do this because their ARV enrolment programme is a benefit exclusive to DEBSWANA employees.
The Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) believes that while DEBSWANA has the right to cut the ARV treatment of recently dismissed employees, the company should have made sure that the people are now on the government ARV programme (MASA). The cutting of the ARV treatment should have been a gradual process, where they should have made sure that each former employee is now on the government programme.
It is essential that the taking of the ARV drugs not be disrupted as this can have serious consequences for not only the individual patient but also for society at large. For the individual patient it is very important to take the right combination of ARV drugs every day, at the right time and with or without food. Failing to do this could make the patient develop new strands of HIV and become resistant to the antiretroviral drugs.
If individuals stop their ARV treatment, they are likely to eventually develop opportunistic infections, in which case their families and the already overburdened health care system will have to take care of them. Also, the development and potential transmission of ARV resistant strands of HIV could have devastating effects for the public.
DEBSWANA should have contacted all people concerned to make arrangements for continued treatment as enrolling and starting the government ARV programme is likely to take time and stopping abruptly the ARV treatment could have disastrous consequences.