Our health advocate Lina, who works in a busy district hospital, received a complaint from a group of HIV patients regarding the lack of privacy in the hospital pharmacy. Large numbers of patients at the were crowding around the windows where prescriptions are disbursed, making it easy for others to see which medicines each patient had been given. A number of HIV patients reportedly abandoned treatment as a result.
“We didn’t feel secure, and we were afraid to go take our medicines because everyone who was waiting at the pharmacy pick-up window could see. If they saw that the person was receiving antiretrovirals, they would go and tell people in the community the person’s HIV status… when I would go out in the street people would always point at me, and they would say, ‘She has AIDS!'” — Maria Zimila, village health committee member
Lina, along with several members of the village health committee, approached the head of the health facility, who agreed that this was a violation of patients’ right to privacy. Together they went to speak with district health leadership, who referred them to provincial authorities, given that the solution would require funds for improvements to infrastructure (the district did not have flexible funds available). Wooden dividers were constructed and installed in the pharmacy to separate the pharmacy windows from view. Patients now wait in line and approach the two pharmacy windows one by one.
“Other people are no longer permitted in the pharmacy window. Each patient goes one by one for his or her turn, and so no one knows what type of medicines each patient is given… We have been spreading the word about these positive changes to the pharmacy in the community, and I would say that around 15 HIV patients who had abandoned treatment have now shown interest in returning to the health center for care.” — Nomsta, village health committee member