The Malta Independent 15 April 2021, Thursday

HIV patients experiencing a shortage in medication, NGO calls for immediate action

Karl Azzopardi Friday, 11 December 2020, 15:52 Last update: about 4 months ago

LGBTIQ+ NGO Malta’s Gay Rights Movement (MGRM) has reported that several patients are being told that stocks of HIV medication have run dry, despite the announcement of new and improved medication finally being introduced in Malta. 

“Barely a week since World AIDS Day, where we forewarned that Malta was quickly losing control of the situation on HIV, we are now faced with a crisis. The situation has been developing throughout this week. This is nothing short of a public health crisis,” MGRM said. 

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It noted that this is happening against a background where new medication is being left to decay in boxes whilst longwinded bureaucratic processes take their time to be completed. 

The NGO speculated that this transition to new medication might be one of the reasons behind the current shortage. However, it noted that a well-planned transition should have included with a phasing-out plan which guaranteed that nobody was left without their lifesaving medication at any one point. 

Not taking medication regularly allows the HIV virus inside a person’s body to gain resistance, making entire ranges of antiretrovirals ineffective against it. 

It also allows HIV to start attacking a person’s immune system, increasing their susceptibility to various other illnesses including Covid-19, and making the virus transmittable, the NGO added. 

“We are appalled that the situation has been allowed to spin out of control notwithstanding regular appeals by activists.” 

“Had this been a shortage chemotherapy or diabetes medication it would be nothing short of a national scandal. Yet, health authorities insist on doubling down on an attitude where HIV patients are treating like second class citizens. We appeal for a quick resolution.” 

Minister of Health Chris Fearne had confirmed that more modern HIV medication will be introduced in Malta last August which was meant to replace the outdated regimen that is currently being dispensed. 

The main advantage of the new medication is that it is the lighter it is on the body, reducing side effects and future complications which the current medication is more prone towards, such as incontinent issues and changes in physical appearance.  

Additionally, the new medication does not cost the patient any money if they are Maltese or a European citizen living in Malta, however, it is not free for third-party nationals and this is not going to change at this point in time. While the current medication is free as well, patients were opting to buy more modern medication from aboard due to its side effects.

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