Drugs are one of the most important material resources for HIV/AIDS-related treatment work. With the right drugs, it is possible to treat diseases, reduce suffering and save lives. Without them, care can still be given, but many problems will continue or get worse, and people will have less confidence that care, support and prevention are worthwhile.
Drugs can be very useful when they are made, stored and managed correctly and when they are used in the right way. Money is often wasted on drugs that are inappropriate for the health problem in question, or of poor quality, or badly managed. Drugs are not 'magic'. Not every illness can be treated with a drug and some drugs are more effective than others. Some drugs may seem more effective because of their name or packaging, but they may be no better than others, just more expensive. Drugs can also be ineffective and dangerous if they are used in the wrong way or for the wrong disease.
This handbook focuses on drugs, but much of what is said applies to other medical supplies, such as dressings and syringes. As with drugs, adequate supplies of these items are needed for effective treatment. They must be of good quality, safe to use, and effective for the job. Many medical supplies also have expiry dates, which must be checked regularly. Medical supplies should be managed in the same way as drugs.
Some important questions to ask about drugs
Before obtaining any drugs, you need to think about:
• Which drugs are needed for the type of treatment you want to provide?
• Where will you obtain the drugs?
• Do you have the right information to use drugs safely and effectively?
• What quantity of each drug is needed?
• Which supplier is best?
• What are the dangers and benefits of donated drugs?
• How should drugs be stored?
• What is the best way to make use of the drugs?
• How should drugs be given to the patient?
In this section, we will focus on aspects of choosing and making the best use of drugs. Section 3.3 will then look at how to ensure the best quality and practical care of drugs for HIV/AIDS-related treatment.