Number of Malawi HIV+ women stopping ARVs rising in Nsanje

Antiretroviral (ART) Clinician at Nsanje District Hospital, John Alimoni has said ART default rate has tremendously increased at the hospital with 18.2 percent of its total registered population avoiding the medication.

Alimony said that some people who are on ARVs continue to shun treatment despite Ministry of Health’s effort in making ART available for the HIV positive population.

“18.2 percent is quite a big number and it is not manageable, imagine that a clinic which has ever since registered 5,435 people on ARVs having 861 defaulters,” he expressed concern highlighting that 1183 got transferred to other hospitals, while 612 died and only 2779 are accessing the treatment at the hospital.

Alimoni said most of the defaulters are women who start the ARVs immediately they go for antenatal checkup.

“There is a misconception that pregnant women who are HIV positive immediately start taking ARVs because they want to protect the unborn child.  This fallacy therefore forces them to shun the treatment because they think that their mission is accomplished especially after delivering an HIV negative child. It is high time they know that ARVs help both the mother and child hence the need to take them during their lifetime,” he observed.

Nsanje ART clinic

Alimoni at Nsaje ART clinic

Another misconception which is forcing clients out of medication is that ARVs cannot be taken without Bacterium therefore they default the medication whenever there is low supply of the drug.

“Bacterium is used as a prophylaxis thus to prevent them from developing opportunistic infections hence there is no reason to default due to inadequate supply of the drug,” advised the Senior Medical Assistant.

He explained that a number of people default the medication due to the side effects they encounter mentioning unusual sleep as an example.

The ART clinician added that all the side effects are manageable when they are reported in time; “We advise the people to consult a medical expert once they feel any discomfort with the medication, it is our duty to change it for another regimen.”

Alimoni also added that some people default the treatment due to religious beliefs. He further said some people shun the medication once they are prayed for while others do not believe in taking any type of medication.

According to the clinician, culture also becomes a contributing factor, especially to those who believe that they have to use herbs in order to overcome sickness.

He however, pointed out that the access to treatment has tremendously improved at the hospital with enough space for both staff and clients which entertains privacy.

“We also have full time clerk, technician and other staff who also have adequate supply of medication like ARVs and Bacterium,” said Alimoni.

Alimoni said the hospital would continue sensitizing the affected and infected to take the medication as prescribed by medical experts for better results.

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