We find ourselves extremely troubled over a series of recent cases that were reported to us, which have, in turn, forced us to issue this statement.
For those of you who are not aware, PEP or (post-exposure prophylaxis) is a medicine given to prevent HIV after a possible exposure. This medication is to be taken right away and is only effective for a 72-hour window. It is a vital medicine.
This medicine used to be stocked at the Mater Dei Pharmacy for use by the Accident and Emergency Department at Mater Dei and would be given to patients who desired it at a cost. However, it has recently come to our attention that Mater Dei Pharmacy is no longer stocking it – this is extremely worrying, to say the least.
Should someone wish to acquire PEP in the short window that it can be effectively taken, they need to get a prescription from A&E or the GU Clinic. The patient then needs to trek to one of the only three pharmacies that stock it, hoping the pharmacy is open, and not knowing whether or not it will be out of stock there too. Like any other pharmacy, these three pharmacies have their opening hours, and are closed on Sundays and sometimes even on Saturday afternoon.
The consequences of not getting PEP in time could mean the difference between living with a chronic condition or not.
We feel that not only is it unacceptable that Mater Dei currently does not stock PEP, but we are also concerned that only three pharmacies out of over 200 pharmacies stock PEP in Malta. Gozitans, in particular, have no easy access to PEP and would have to travel to Malta to be able to acquire some. This is because none of the three pharmacies are located in Gozo.
Given we have the highest rising number of HIV cases in Europe, this is a pertinent subject and one that is becoming critical.
We continue to urge the authorities and our parliamentary representatives to start acting on their electoral promises. At this stage not only is PEP not free, as promised, but there are days when it cannot even be bought.
People are not taking fewer drugs and having less sex just because authorities are not acknowledging this. It is their job to safeguard everyone without prejudice, and this is clearly not happening. We appeal to the government’s human rights obligations that each and every individual has the right to access healthcare. We ask that PEP become restocked at Mater Dei pharmacy immediately and that more pharmacies and pharmacists take their oaths and responsibilities more seriously.
Checkpoint Malta, HIV Malta within MGRM, ARC – Allied Rainbow Communities, LGBTI+ Gozo, Aditus Foundation, Drachma LGBTI