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Durban - McCord hospital has completed the transfer of its 4 000 HIV patients from its Sinikithemba ARV clinic to public health facilities, amid fears that these patients will be pushed to the back of the state queue and miss out on their medication.
International funding for the clinic officially ceased on June 30.
In March, the hospital announced that it would have to transfer the patients after the US President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (Pepfar) phased out its financial support.
Last Thursday, patients from the Ithembalabantu clinic in Umlazi, south of Durban, peacefully marched to the Durban City Hall to call on world leaders to restore funding for Aids treatment and care.
The Aids Healthcare Foundation has planned similar marches around the world to focus public attention on the lack of access to HIV testing, treatment and prevention, wavering political commitment to funding, and excessive Aids drugs pricing. And on Sunday, a client at the Ithembalabantu Clinic, Jenny Boyce, will represent SA at the Keep the Promise march in Washington DC, ahead of the 19th International Aids Conference.
“Health care is a right. It should not be sold off to the highest bidder. The poorest of the poor have a right to quality health care,” she said. “We’ve seen the negative impact of Pepfar pulling its funding. Patients are the ones who suffer.”
But Aids Foundation of SA chief executive Debbie Mathew said it was always Pepfar’s plan to phase out its support for McCord to treat HIV-positive patients.
“Pepfar cannot fund HIV-positive patients for the rest of their lives,” she said. “They started the funding because in the early days, the government was quite slow in rolling out medication. But today, people can get ARVs at most clinics.”
The risk of the transfer, said Mathew, was that some patients could end up (at) the back of the queue and have to re-apply for medication, resulting in them missing out on their medication for some time.
But McCord’s chief executive, Dr Helga Holst, said the hospital had a well-planned transferral process with the Department of Health.
“As it is important that patients don’t end up having to re-apply for their medication, we sent them only to clinics that had been inspected by the Department of Health for adequate HIV treatment facilities.”
KZN Department of Health spokeswoman Sebe Zwane said the transfer was monitored jointly by McCord and the department. - Daily News