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Millions lack access to ARVs - UN study
Thursday 4 November 2004
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AFRICA: Millions lack access to ARVs - UN study

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]


Kenneth Kaunda

ADDIS ABABA, 12 October (PLUSNEWS) - The United Nations Commission on HIV/AIDS and Governance in Africa (CHGA) is to meet later this week in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, to discuss how treatment for people living with the virus could be scaled up, as a new report shows that millions of Africans lack access to potentially life-saving antiretroviral drugs (ARVs).

CHGA, which says it will call for massive expansion in availability of ARVs to millions on the continent, brings together health experts, key government officials and ministers, and includes one commissioner who is living with HIV.

Kenneth Kaunda, the former president of Zambia whose own son died from AIDS, is one of the commissioners on the task force, set up in February 2003 by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Kaunda will officially open the conference on Thursday.

According to the new CHGA report sponsored by the UN and due to be released this week, only 50,000 Africans get ARV treatment - a coverage of around one percent - and a further 4 million people are in need.

An estimated 20 million Africans have died since the start of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, while some 29.4 million are living with the virus and 25 million children have been orphaned, according to the report. The pandemic is concentrated in Africa, which has some 70 percent of the people living with HIV/AIDS globally.

Life expectancy in sub-Saharan Africa has also dropped because of the virus from 62 years to 47 years - equivalent of the life expectancy in the US 100 years ago. Fears are now growing that if the virus continues, it threatens the very fabric of African society and could spark its eventual collapse.

"Given the fact that an estimated 30 million individuals on the continent live with HIV/AIDS, the worst effects of the epidemic will be felt by future generations," the report warns.

CHGA commissioners are looking at how scaled-up treatment with ARVs can prevent the "disastrous erosion" of human capital and how African health systems can be strengthened. "The debate on antiretrovirals has until recently focused on the cost of these drugs and on making them available more cheaply," the report adds.

"The cost has already fallen, and it is widely assumed that it will fall further in the future. However, even the cheaper drugs currently remain way beyond the means of the majority of Africans. If access is to be widened, then the cost both of providing the drugs and of creating the necessary infrastructure for their delivery will need to be carefully calibrated for African states," it says.


Recent AFRICA Reports
TAC takes govt to court over ARV rollout timetable,  4/Nov/04
AIDS drugs needed for HIV positive children,  3/Nov/04
IRIN PlusNews Weekly Issue 205, 29 October 2004,  29/Oct/04
Reducing HIV risk in breastfeeding,  27/Oct/04
Increased need for counselling services,  26/Oct/04
VIH Internet
Sida Info Services
Le Fonds mondial de lutte contre le SIDA, la tuberculose et le paludisme
Le Réseau Afrique 2000

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