SANAC Condemns the Theft of Lifesaving ARVs in Free State

Feb 16, 2023 | News

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 SANAC Condemns the Theft of Lifesaving ARVs in Free State

PRETORIA, 15 February 2023 – The South African National AIDS Council (SANAC) condemns, in the strongest possible terms, the brazen theft cases of antiretroviral medication worth R125 000 from public health facilities in Bloemfontein, Free State.

Two separate cases have been reported by the SAPS in Mangaung within one week where boxes of ARVs were found in the possession of private persons, with one of them identified as an employee of the Free State Department of Health. In the first case, three males aged 28, 42 and 51 were found with boxes of ARVs worth R85 000 in a bakkie at a mall parking lot on Wednesday last week. The SAPS confirmed that the medication was stolen from a clinic burglary in Boshof. The second case is of a male aged 32 who was found with medication worth R40 000 hidden at his private residence. All four have been arrested and disciplinary processes for the Department of Health employee are underway.

Commenting on the two incidents, the SANAC Co-Chairperson Ms. Steve Letsike said, “One can accept that criminals will always take their chances, however, two cases of theft within one week points to a serious challenge in Mangaung and everywhere in the country about criminal activities we should neither accept nor tolerate in society. We call upon the Free State Department of Health to tighten their security controls to ensure that the lives of people living with HIV are not compromised due to unavailability of stock as a result of theft,” she said, adding that the perpetrators should be subjected to the full might of the law.

Echoing the Letsike’s sentiments, the SANAC CEO Dr. Thembisile Xulu said, “South Africa is lauded worldwide for having the largest ARV treatment programme, largely funded by government, and accessible for free at public health facilities. The only plausible reason for someone to steal something that is already free suggests a more sinister motive behind these thefts. We call on law enforcement to do a thorough investigation to establish where the stolen ARVs and other drugs are disseminated,” said Dr. Xulu.

Working with the Free State AIDS Council, SANAC will engage the Department of Health at national and provincial levels to find a lasting solution to the challenge, as well as to ensure that the Free State Province does not experience stockouts due to criminal elements.

Speaking on behalf of the PLHIV Sector, Ms. Sibongile Tshabalala expressed dismay about the incidents, “It is disheartening to hear of such cases, especially in Free State because it is not the first time ARVs have been stolen – in 2020 there were other cases in Kroonstad and Zastron. Our sector works very hard with provinces to ensure that clinics don’t experience stockouts. ARVs are an essential chronic medication and must be always available, this is unacceptable”.

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