In the past week, three stories about severe TB or HIV drug shortages have landed in our inbox. From Uganda to Burma to South Africa, TB and HIV patients are being forced to go without desperately needed medications.
The latest story is the most troubling. An article in the Globe and Mail recounts the story of a mother trying, unsuccessfully, to get antiretroviral drugs for her HIV-positive five-year-old daughter. The mother lives in constant fear about her daughter’s health, panicking with every sneeze or cough. Click here to read the full piece.
This is but one tale in a broader, unfolding catastrophe. For months now, global health advocates have been sounding alarm bells about the impact of the global economic downturn on health spending. This story and others like it out of Burma and Uganda are the first indication of the consequences of funding shortfalls in developing countries. This problem could be compounded if the U.S. and other donor countries are unwilling to step into the gap, by increasing spending on global health and upping contributions to the vital programs like the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
Most immediately, these developments threaten the lives of TB or HIV infected patients like Thato, the five-year-old featured in the Globe and Mail story. That article reports that 30 people are dying every day in her South African province of Free State while waiting for ARVs.
But the long-term effects of this could be even more widespread: increased drug-resistance. When patients who have been on treatment are suddenly denied their medications, it is a recipe for increased virulence.
The world is already ill-equipped to cope with the growing threat of drug-resistant TB. These latest stories present an entirely new scenario, in which our failure to maintain current global health programs throws fuel on the fire of drug-resistant TB and HIV.