The Gauteng department of health reports that since lockdown started, more and more TB and HIV patients have defaulted on their medications as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The approximate number of patients that failed to collect their TB medicines is 1 090, while the number of patients that failed to collect their antiretroviral medicines is approximately 10 950. This has, in turn, exacerbated the loss-to-follow-up (LTFU) rate of TB and HIV patients which has remained a challenge nationally since the beginning of the health programmes owing to a number of factors such as high mobility, incorrect and unreliable addresses due to fear of stigma around TB and HIV.
Since the lockdown the average percentage reduction in medicine collections for TB is 1.4% and 19.6% for HIV.
But the department says they have developed and are implementing a track and trace plan to locate these.
“Through the Ward Based Outreach Teams; patients are followed up and given their treatment. Those required to follow up for bloods are advised to report to the facility,” reads the statement.
The anticipated impact of treatment gaps for TB and HIV/Aids because of the lockdown measures are; supply and transportation of medicines may be disrupted by flight cancellations and imposed travel restrictions. The unavailability of medicines may lead to treatment interruption which subsequently causes drug resistance and deterioration of a patients’ health. Patients who do not comply with treatment remain vulnerable and may be susceptible to other opportunistic infections; SARS CoV – 2 being one of them.
Clinicians may also have difficulty managing patients with unsuppressed viral loads due to treatment interruption.
Such patients may end up developing complications such as Immune Reconstitution Inflammatory Syndrome (IRIS) and many other illnesses.