Antiretroviral drugs target these active forms of the virus, but in some cells, the virus remains inactive. Picture: Steve Lawrence

Johannesburg - There is no crisis in the supply of antiretroviral (ARV) medicine in the Eastern Cape, the province's health department said on Tuesday.

“There is no crisis in the department. The catch-up programme we have was a precautionary measure to avert a crisis and ensure supply of drugs during the holiday season.

“There is not a single health facility in the Eastern Cape that does not have ARVs,” spokesman Sizwe Kupelo said.

In a statement on Saturday, the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) said about 30 hospitals and 350 clinics were threatened by an interruption in the supply of ARVs.

A Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) team had arrived in the area to help deal with the backlog.

The threat to the supply was caused by staff members, who went on an illegal strike at the Mthatha depot, it said.

Kupelo rejected the TAC's views.

“We have a team that has been put at the depot to assist and there are two pharmacists from national department which have also been deployed at the depot,” he said.

The 29 staff members at the depot who went on an illegal strike had been suspended and they had been replaced by interim staff, he said.

Twenty-five permanent posts had been since advertised for replacements.

The Eastern Cape health department welcomed the help of MSF and TAC in addressing the problem.

“We welcome their assistance..., but they do not run the business of the department,” said Kupelo.

He also rejected the issuing of an emergency number by the TAC and said the public should use the number given by the department for any health-related queries. - Sapa