She further revealed that drugs for HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria patients are still locked and literally seized in containers and depreciating in value even as patients are dying for want of the drugs and despite appeals for duty to be waived on these category of drugs due to the fact that patients in need of these drugs in order to prolong their lives are suffering in silence before succumbing to death.
The Legal Aid Board Executive Director, Fatmata Carlton Hanciles confirmed to Members of Parliament that there was no duty waiver for the National AIDS Secretariat to clear essential drugs for Tuberculosis, HIV and Malaria at the Queen Elizabeth II Quay II.
This disclosure was made at a workshop organized by the Legal Aid Board in partnership with National AIDS Secretariat with support from Global Fund for at an event for Members of the Parliamentary Committee on Health, Human Rights and Legislature.
She went on to say: “It is sad to let you know that there is no waiver for essential drugs at the port when commodities are sent for the health of people living with AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. It is very strange. We really need support from Members of Parliament to advocate for more domestic resources to both the AIDS Secretariat and other relevant health institutions.”
She added that as LAB they have been meeting with officials and other stakeholders at the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, Port Authority and other players but this move is yet to yield fruit, adding that as a result, drugs for HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis patients are still locked in containers and depreciating in value at the port even as patients are dying for want of the drugs.
Director General of National AIDS Secretariat, Alhaji Dr. Momodu Sesay said the issue of people living with AIDs is very important.
According to him, the last survey that was conducted indicated that out of 7 million population, 1.5% are living with HIV/AIDS, with 24,000 people receiving treatment while 61,000 are living with the virus across the country.
He said access to health care, test and counseling are human right issues which should be urgently prioritized and urged lawmakers to review the HIV/AIDS Act 2011.
“Access to justice and discrimination against people living with HIV are societal challenges that should be promptly addressed,” he said, adding that the review of the Act is needed in order to address challenges facing people living with HIV.
He revealed that the Secretariat is still providing free testing and counseling but that some victims or people living with HIV are afraid to visit health centres because of fear or discrimination.
He lamented that that the Secretariat is constrained with low funding but that despite these challenges, Global Fund has not relented and quite recently shipped drugs into the country, although these drugs have not been cleared at the Queen Elizabeth II Quay pending payment of duty.
The lawmakers recommended that Port Authority, Ministry of Health and National Revenue Authority be summoned to find a way the currently depreciating at the port could be cleared soonest for distribution to patients. He added that it would be prudent for them to also review HIV/AIDS laws and other related matters.