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HIV/AIDS drugs shipment delayed

Some HIV/AIDS patients who attend the government’s free clinic may have been taken off their prescribed medication recently due to a shipment “error” that delayed the arrival of their antiretroviral drugs, several sources told The Nassau Guardian yesterday.

Minister of Health Dr. Hubert Minnis, confirmed that a shipment of HIV/AIDS medication had been delayed, but did not say why.

Health professionals close to the clinic who were not authorized to speak to the press, revealed that HIV/AIDS patients who are taken off one antiretroviral drug and given a new prescription often experience changes in their T-cell counts. Those counts are critical indicators of whether the HIV virus is progressing to the next stage, which is AIDS.

This drug shipment delay comes only weeks after the Clinton Foundation, which brokered a deal for The Bahamas to receive low cost HIV/AIDS medication, pulled its team out of The Bahamas.

Director of the National AIDS Program Dr. Perry Gomez said recently that the Clinton Foundation left because it felt its mission here was completed.

Minnis insisted that the foundation left the necessary infrastructure in place for The Bahamas to continue operating its free HIV/AIDS clinic with no interruption to the flow of antiretroviral drugs into the country.

Gomez insisted that the free clinic, and the pharmacy where the antiretroviral drugs are disbursed, would be able to carry on effectively and efficiently without the Clinton Foundation workers, who did much more than simply negotiate drugs during their time in The Bahamas.

However, almost three months into the foundation’s official departure-and even before the last Clinton Foundation worker left The Bahamas-shipments of medication have been delayed.

The Guardianrecently made several calls to Gomez who shied away from speaking, while all calls to the clinic were referred back to him.

HIV/AIDS has been a taboo topic in The Bahamas and as a result information about patients and patient care is closely guarded by health care professionals.

The location of the government’s free HIV/AIDS clinic is even kept a closely guarded secret, as is the location of the pharmacy where the antiretroviral drugs are disbursed. There are no markings showing the way to the clinic and there is no signage.

The National AIDS Program has sought for years to encourage infected individuals to get treatment and it ardently promotes HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention, which the Clinton Foundation also assisted with.

Shortly before the foundation workers left, a campaign to reach out to the Haitian community was started.

“For the last nine months they were working with the Haitian community and did a wonderful job,” Gomez toldThe Guardianin a recent interview.

Minnis said recently that the government will change nothing with regard to its policies on HIV/AIDS as a result of the Clinton Foundation’s departure.

“(Government is)not going to do anything different because of it,” he said. “Individuals will come in and be trained to run it(the HIV/AIDS center)efficiently.”

He also insisted that the Clinton Foundation will periodically visit The Bahamas to oversee what they began.

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