African Journal of AIDS Research

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HIV antiretroviral medication stock-outs in Ghana: contributors and consequences

Rebecca A. Poku, Adobea Yaa Owusu, Patricia Dolan Mullen, Christine Markham, Sheryl A. McCurdy


Drug stock-outs are an unfortunate yet common reality for patients living in low and middle income countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa where trouble with consistent stock of antiretroviral medications (ARVs) continues. Our study takes a snapshot of this problem in Ghana. Although the country launched its antiretroviral therapy (ART) programme in 2003, progress toward realising the full benefit of ART for treated individuals has been limited, in part, because of stock-outs. In Ghana’s Greater Accra region, we conducted semi-structured interviews with 40 women  living with HIV (WLHIV) and 15 individuals with a history of HIV-related work in government or non-governmental organisations, or healthcare facilities. We used repeated review with coding and mapping techniques to analyse the transcripts and identify common themes. Stock-outs of ARVs result in  inconsistent administration of therapy, increased indirect medical costs for WLHIV, and negative labelling of patients.  Inefficiencies in drug supply, poor coordination with port authorities, inadequate government funding and dependence on international aid contribute to the stock-outs experienced in Ghana. Although using ARVs produced in-country could reduce supply problems, the domestically-manufactured product currently does not meet World Health Organization (WHO) standards. We recommend focused efforts to produce WHO standard ARVs in Ghana, and a review of current supply chain management to identify and mend pitfalls in the system.

Keywords: antiretroviral therapy, healthcare funding, HIV/AIDS, pharmaceutical supply, reagent shortage, West Africa
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