But the government says it can’t afford to buy the life-saving ARV drugs they need.
The government, handpicked by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, has led the kingdom into a financial meltdown and is only able to survive the next few months courtesy of a loan from South Africa. Spending on most non-Royal budgets across Swaziland have been slashed to the bone.
Senator Thuli Msane revealed yesterday (25 August 2011) that the National Emergency Response Council on HIV/AIDS (NERCHA) estimated 65,000 people could die because of the ARV shortage.
She accused the government of misleading people into believing that sufficient ARVs were available.
She told the senate that NERCHA had told participants in a workshop that doctors were no longer starting patients on the first line of treatment, but instead just gave them whatever was available, the Swazi Observer newspaper reported.
She said this was dangerous to the health of the patients because they would end up being resistant to the drugs.
NERCHA also revealed that the rate of HIV infection in the kingdom was increasing, the newspaper reported.
Msane highlighted allegations of patients being given expired treatment. ‘It is very worrying when we get such information from people we entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring the illness is being monitored. What is government doing about this?’ she asked.
‘Let us make health a priority and make sure our people live longer to avoid the increase in the number of orphaned children, which multiplies the load on government. Let us stop lying and say things are going well when that is not true,’ she added.
The Observer reported Bennedict Xaba, the Swazi Health Minister saying the kingdom needed E42 million (US$5.8 million) to buy a full stock of HIV drugs, but it could only afford to spend E11 million.