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Wednesday, June 03, 2009

CRISIS - NO AIDS DRUGS!!

Today I saw 6-year-old Anita, who has been my patient since birth. She was one of the first children started on ARV's (antiretroviral drugs) in our clinic, and responded wonderfully. Her CD4 counts are excellent, her mother caring and faithful. She does not miss appointments or forget to take medicines. She is exactly who USAID, EGPAF, Uganda MOH, JCRC, Baylor, etc. etc. labor to save, and infant who would likely have died by now but instead turned into a growing normal-looking girl. And up until today, she represented the way things are supposed to work. But today, there was not ONE SINGLE antiretroviral pill in our clinic, or in any other clinic in the district. We've watched the supply dwindle. We've made reports, follow-up phone calls. We've switched regimens to economize and use every possible pill. We've been told to ration, to not start any new patients on drugs, to be patient ourselves, to hang on because the supplies are coming. But they never did. The margin has long been tenuous, but the shocking truth is that today dozens of clients left the hospital without medicine. By next week half of the hundreds of people on ARV's in Bundibugyo will be off therapy. And even more shocking: a phone call to Kampala confirmed that this is a nation-wide stock-out of drugs. What happens in the world if one of the countries with the highest number of AIDS patients, one of the places were the epidemic began and gathered momentum, suddenly takes thousands and thousands of patients off meds? In the short term, some people who were barely surviving, early on therapy, will die. In the long run, it sounds like the perfect scenario for a drug-resistance nightmare. I sat outside our clinic in the hot sunshine after my phone calls, crying. Crying for Anita, for injustice, for the inefficiency and poverty and poor management that led us to this point, crying for my own frustration of impotence to do anything about it (these drugs are tightly controlled and not available to just run out to the store and buy). So at least I will give voice to the Anitas of Uganda.

11 comments:

Amy Pasqualini said...

I just can't even imagine how this happens or how devastating and helpless it must feel. I'll pray that the needed supplies arrive very soon. May God give you strength as you speak for these many people that need the medication and also give you wisdom as you make tough decisions involving life and death. May God lift you up today as you work so tirelessly to help so many!

Stephanie said...

Jennifer,
Is there anything at all that can be done stateside? Is there anyway that we can help beyond praying? Our hearts go out to you and the many who will suffer if this isn't resolved.

Debbie said...

Praying here.

Esquire of the mountain said...

sometimes as a ugandan blogger living abroad i forget that our people still suffer from basic problems like inadequate services and inefficiencies and it breaks my heart when i read something like this! thank you for sharing, please keep it up.

Cindy Nore said...

Jennifer, I am in fervent prayer that these much needed drugs will soon arrive - I know that haste is of absolute necessity for so many patients like Anita whose very lives depend on this medicine. If there is anything else we can do here in the states, as Stephanie also asked, please let us know. In the meantime, you are in our prayers as we advocate before our Father for you, the advocate of so many there in Africa. God bless you as you continue to press on in the face of overwhelming need and distress. With much love - Cindy Nore

Nick said...

To echo Stephanie,
Is there anything that can be done stateside. I work/go to school at a large school of public health. Any thoughts on what is causing the problem?

Tricia said...

What can I do? How can I help?

Heather Pike-Agnello said...

Ditto to the questions, what, if anything, can be done? Can churches help in any way? I'm praying. Love you so, Jennifer.

Lindsey B said...

Hi Jennifer,

This is Lindsey, Nathan Elwood's sister. This is stunning and appalling. Of course, I too am praying. I have also written to the President, First Lady, chair of the appropriations subcommittee on state and foreign affairs (which deals with foreign aid) etc. to request their help in getting drugs to you and all of Uganda. Anyone who's interested can email their representatives or anyone else in government via Congress.org.

Please keep us updated!

Stephanie said...

Thank you for the leads Lindsey. I too have written letters to the President and First Lady asking for help. Jennifer and all the team...We still pray for God to intervene and for you to be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit to live and work in such difficult times. May God's grace be poured out in full measure upon you and your families.

Izori said...

Praying for you!

AnneMarie McPherson