GLOBAL: AIDS treatment must adapt to poor communities, says MSF
NAIROBI, 27 November (PLUSNEWS) - AIDS treatment procedures must be demystified, simplified, and adapted to the needs of the world's poorest communities in order to be effective, according to the NGO Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF).
"To scale up treatment on a large scale, we have to adapt treatment models to real life," Dr Morten Rostrup, President of MSF's International Council told reporters in Nairobi. "Adaptation means fewer pills per day, fewer lab tests and free treatment, dispensed in the communities where people, live, that is at district facilities and at community health posts."
Currently ARV treatment - consisting of two triple therapy pills per day - costs about US $270 per person per year, which is way beyond the reach of ordinary people.
MSF doctor, Earnest Nyamoto, said that for a long time, people had believed that ARV treatment was "complex, sophisticated and too technical" for poor and rural communities. Yet MSF is proving otherwise with its treatment of 1,200 people in Kenya, including in Nairobi's slum areas. "It can be done, we can get the patients on treatment," he said.
But MSF stressed it was essential to provide the treatment free of cost. "Our experience convinces us that treatment must be free for patients," MSF Head of Mission in Kenya, Christine Jamet, told reporters. "If there was a fee, many of those who desperately need these lifesaving drugs would not be able to get them."
In Kenya, where 2.5 million people are reckoned to be infected with the virus, and between 250,000 and 500,000 urgently need treatment, only three percent are receiving it. The rest will die within two years. A draft national treatment plan released six weeks ago plans to treat only 6,000 patients.
This year saw the highest number of deaths from HIV/AIDS ever recorded worldwide, with three million dying and five million becoming infected, according to the UN.
A new UNAIDS/WHO report says surprisingly little is being done in sub-Saharan Africa - where an estimated 26.6 million people are living with HIV - to implement even the most basic, cost-effective HIV-prevention efforts, outside of Senegal and Uganda.