Friday, February 08, 2008

Panic on Depo Provera was caused by Ministry of Health, says Dr Macha

Panic on Depo Provera was caused by Ministry of Health, says Dr Macha
By Mwila Chansa
Friday February 08, 2008 [03:00]

Zambia Medical Association (ZMA) president Dr Swebby Macha has said the panic that arose from the controversy surrounding Depo Provera was caused by the Ministry of Health’s failure to convince the public that the contraceptive had no HIV. And Zambia Union of Nurses Organisation (ZUNO) president Thom Yung’ana said there was need to consider the root cause of the panic before blaming it on Zambians’ reading culture.

Commenting on health minister Dr Brian Chituwo’s statement that the controversy surrounding Depo Provera could not have arisen if health practitioners and Zambians in general had a good reading culture, Dr Macha said it was not the ordinary Zambians or the health practitioners that started the panic.

“It was the Ministry of Health that acted on reports by a laboratory technician who tested for HIV on Depo, we really don’t know what prompted the technician to do the test,” Dr Macha said.

He said at their first press briefing on Depo Provera, the Ministry of Health should have assured Zambians that the contraceptive had no HIV and that if this was done, no panic would have arisen.

Dr Macha added that now that the drug was found to be HIV free, the ministry should focus its energies on sensitizing and convincing the public that the contraceptive was safe.

“The first cut is the deepest and as an association together with the ministry, our efforts should now aim at educating the public that Depo is HIV free,” said Dr Macha.

He also said assertions suggesting that medical practitioners and Zambians in particular had a bad reading culture were ‘blanket’ statements because there had not been a study to determine that this was true.

And Yung’ana said even though the reading culture in Zambia was not good, it could not be linked to the controversy on Depo Provera.

“Who created the information that led to the panic? Is it the health workers or the users of the drug? It is only when we establish this that we can say they didn’t read or understand the issue,” said Yung’ana.

On Wednesday, health minister Dr Brian Chituwo said there would not have been panic over Depo if Zambians in general and medical personnel in particular read widely because a study of human biology would reveal that HIV could not survive in a chemical like Depo Provera.

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