Zambian Government Must Focus on Quality of ARV Treatment, Information Management Systems, HIV/AIDS Advocates Say
HIV/AIDS advocates and health officials in Zambia say efforts to treat HIV-positive people in the country over the past year should have focused more on the quality of treatment rather than the number of people receiving treatment, South Africa's Independent Online reports. Zambia in 2005 aimed to have 100,000 HIV-positive people receiving antiretroviral drugs by the end of the year, but the country was able to reach only about half its target in that time, Albert Mwango, national coordinator of antiretroviral treatment at the Central Board of Health, said. Due to a shortage of antiretrovirals, no new patients are being enrolled in Zambia's HIV treatment program, though there are enough antiretrovirals for those already enrolled, he said. Advocates speculate that focusing on meeting quantitative quotas that seek to increase the number of people receiving treatment could have led to the drug shortage. Mwango said there are many challenges in controlling HIV/AIDS in Zambia, including facilitating the flow of information from districts to the national office, which is hampered by the country's weak reporting system. The country recently has created a new Health Information System Management program that will allow data on antiretroviral treatment nationwide to be updated frequently, Mwango said. He added that a lack of human resources also makes it difficult to implement treatment programs. Clement Mfuzi, coordinator for the Network of Zambian People Living with HIV and AIDS, urged the government to pay more attention to the quality, not quantity, of antiretroviral treatment. The health board estimates that about 85,000 HIV-positive people living in Zambia are eligible for the program every year. The operation of an additional 20 to 30 health facilities in 2007 will expand HIV treatment services in the country (Independent Online, 2/14).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.