Managing Medicines: Haitians Receive Urgently Needed HIV/AIDS Medicines

Access to condoms to prevent HIV transmission, test kits to detect HIV infection, and medicines to treat HIV-positive individuals is often severely limited in countries with weak pharmaceutical management systems. To address such limitations, countries need to implement plans to assure proper purchase, storage, distribution, and use of medicines and health commodities, while establishing sound information management systems.

In Haiti, the country with the highest HIV/AIDS rate in the western hemisphere, thousands of HIV-infected individuals are without treatment. To help address this issue, a non-profit organization in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince known as the Haitian Study Group of Kaposi Sarcoma and Opportunistic Infections (GHESKIO), provides HIV testing, counseling, and AIDS treatment free of charge to those in need at its clinics. However, in February 2004, inadequate forecasting of HIV/AIDS-related medicines and health commodities needs, coupled with civil turmoil, virtually depleted GHESKIO's stock of HIV/AIDS medicines. Left unaddressed, over a thousand HIV-positive patients would have been without access to their normal treatment, leaving them vulnerable to major health complications, potential drug resistance, or even premature death.

Given the urgency of this situation, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) requested that MSH's Rational Pharmaceutical Management Plus (RPM Plus) Program work rapidly to ensure that HIV-positive patients at the GHESKIO clinics had uninterrupted access to their treatment. In collaboration with USAID, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and MSH's Haiti-based Health Services 2004 Project, RPM Plus ensured that a sufficient number of quality medicines were not only purchased at reasonable prices from a qualified supplier, but also properly stored by trained personnel. Funded by USAID in support of the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, RPM Plus successfully estimated the required quantities of HIV/AIDS-related medicines and provided enough HIV/AIDS medicines to prevent the interruption of treatment to patients for the next ten months. Through this initiative, RPM Plus is now working with eight satellite GHESKIO clinics to scale-up their services to provide HIV/AIDS treatment in their facilities.

RPM Plus, with funding from USAID, is providing technical assistance to local drug and health managers in Haiti, strengthening Haiti's capacity to supply HIV/AIDS-related medicines and commodities without interruption. This assistance will help limit future stock outs and give Haitians living with HIV/AIDS an opportunity to access medicines to prolong and improve their quality of life.