HIV-positive mothers in Quthing have, since February this year, been struggling to access pediatric cotrimoxazole suspension and are on the verge of exposing their minor babies to the virus.
This after the Quthing Government Hospital ran out of the drug, which is administered to babies born to HIV-positive mothers and are still under six months, in February 2022.
As if that is not enough, the few pharmacies in the district have also run out of the essential drug.
Pediatric cotrimoxazole suspension is a World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended antibiotic HIV exposed but uninfected infants. It is administered to infants between the ages of four to six weeks until they are weaned off breast milk and are no longer exposed to HIV and have confirmation that they are HIV negative.
HIV-positive mothers who are breastfeeding exclusively for the recommended six months before their babies start consuming solid foods must put their children on the same medication to protect them from exposure of HIV.
However, this has turned out to be a nightmare for HIV-positive mothers in Quthing who have been failing to access the life-saving drug since February this year.
An HIV-positive mother from the district told the Lesotho Times this week that she has been failing to get the drug from the Quthing Government Hospital since February.
For the last three months, she has had to buy from pharmacies. However, now the pharmacies have also run out of the drug.
“We have failed to receive any explanation except that the drug is out of stock,” the young mother said.
“I have been buying it for my child but now pharmacies in Quthing have also run out of the drug, and I don’t know what to do.”
If she fails to replenish next week, she could be forced to stop breastfeeding her child. However, that is not a viable option as she is not married and is unemployed. Therefore, she cannot afford purchasing milk for her four months old baby.
“I may be forced to stop breastfeeding to ensure that I do not infect the baby with HIV. However, the challenge is that I do not have the funds to buy baby formula which is the only alternative if I were to stop breastfeeding.
“My hope is that all the challenges that the Health ministry is facing are resolved quickly because the current situation means I may have to travel to Mohale’s Hoek, Mafeteng or even Maseru to purchase the medication. And even then, there is no guarantee that the pharmacies in those districts would be stocked up. Besides that, it means I must spend more on transport,” she said.
Contacted for comment, Quthing district medical officer, Mpeile Mokhahlane, said she had no authority to speak on the matter.
On her part, Health ministry public relations manager, ‘Mamolise Falatsa, confirmed that the district was facing shortages.
“I have consulted Dr Mokhahlane and she has confirmed the unavailability of the medication. She said the National Drug Service Organisation (NDSO) had run out of stock,” Ms Falatsa said.
Ms Falatsa said they were now investigating the severity of the situation with the NDSO.