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Uganda Is Running Out of Antibiotics for People With HIV

Uganda is running out of an antibiotic that helps fight infections, putting hundreds of thousands of lives at risk.

The antibiotic, Septrin, is used to treat illnesses like the flu, malaria, tuberculosis, and even diarrhea, and it is often given to people living with HIV who are on antiretroviral drugs (ARVs).

Many public health and ARV-accredited facilities haven’t received Septrin for the past five months, according to The Guardian.

Sarah Achieng Opendi, Uganda’s state minister for health, told The Guardian that there has been a funding gap and it has delayed the arrival of the medication.

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At least 1.4 million people were living with HIV in Uganda in 2016, according to HIV awareness NGO Avert. A lack of medication like Septrin could seriously weaken the immune systems of people with HIV.

"According to feedback from the field, the shortage of Septrin is countrywide, and this has been the case since the year began," Sylvia Nakasi, policy and advocacy officer at the Uganda Network of Aids Service Organisations, told The Guardian.

Nakasi believes that the national test and treatment guidelines need to be revised in order to ensure those most in need receive the medication on time.

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"The stock-outs of essential medicines [are] a ping-pong game in Uganda, with no one wanting to take responsibility for their actions," Milly Katana, a public health specialist and HIV prevention campaigner, told The Guardian. "This is very sad given that Septrin is one of the cheapest drugs on the market, and is recommended to all people living with HIV to ward off opportunistic infections including respiratory complications like pneumonia, and is known to reduce the susceptibility to malaria infections."

Achieng Opendi expects the next stock of the antibiotic to arrive in July, which is funded through the Global Fund and should last until December.

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