One of Malawi's most outspoken HIV activists, Lillian Kumwenda has fired a distress signal saying that the current Anti Retro Viral (ARV) drugs being taken by HIV positive Malawians are having drastic side effects on them, a development she called a "human rights issue."
Kumwenda said this on Thursday in Mzuzu at a meeting organised by The Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) aimed at strategising ahead on 10th December which is World Human Rights Day.
"As much as we appreciate that we have free ARV's unlike other countries, the current drug is having serious side effects. The effects range from swollen chests and narrowing of the legs for example," said Kumwenda.
A nurse who did not want to be named corroborated Kumwenda's story and said that the development is leaving HIV positive people prone to discrimination.
"The side effects mean that those on ART are easily identified and that can be a basis for stigma against the people," said the nurse.
Human Rights Activist and former columnist, Emily Mkamanga said people need to know what the side effects of prescription drugs are before they are given the dosage. She compared Malawi and Western countries and said in The West, every medical procedure and dosage is well explained to the patient as per its implications.
"It's not right. This is life. What are they giving us, are they not drugs rejected somewhere?" wondered Mkamanga.
MHRC commissioner, Desmond Kaunda said that the HIV situation in Malawi is full of discrimination as what is perfectly a human rights issue [ART] is taken as charity.
"We need to advocate more against this subtle discrimination, there are other alternative drugs and government should do more," said Kaunda.
Meanwhile MHRC , through its Director of Research and Documentation, Wycliffe Masoo, said that Kumwenda's case will be prioritized in the study the commission is going to launch titled Human Rights and HIV in Malawi.
Kumwenda said that she has raised the issue with government but government has promised to help-next year.
The ARVs that are causing the alleged damage is called Trimune 30 and 40 and is a combination of Neverapine, Lamuvidine and Stavudine.According to Wikipedia, AS OF 2009 the US recommends the combination Emtricitabine, Tenoforvir and Efavirenz as its ART dosage.