BURUNDI: Associations in plea to government over HIV/AIDS treatment
BUJUMBURA, 21 May (PLUSNEWS) - Four associations fighting the spread of HIV/AIDS in Burundi have appealed to the government to improve access to anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) for children orphaned by AIDS.
The associations made the recommendation on Tuesday during the opening of a three-day HIV/AIDS workshop in the Burundian capital, Bujumbura. First Lady Oda Ndayizeye opened the workshop.
"The government has not put much focus on the care of HIV/AIDS orphans, and very few children are under anti-retroviral treatment," Spès Nihangaza, who heads the anti-AIDS Famille pour Vaincre le Sida (FVS), told PlusNews.
She gave the example of the Association Nationale de Soutien aux Séropositifs et Sidéens, which was involved in the care of people with AIDS. "Out of a total of 873 people under ARV treatment, only 42 of them are children". This figure, she said, represented less than 5 percent of HIV-infected children.
"Priority is not put on the medical care of AIDS orphans because their guardians already consider them sentenced to death," Nihangaza said.
She added that many Burundians could not afford ARVs, especially for children whose parents were on ARV treatment because "the family will not have enough income to pay for the children's health care".
She said, "For this reason, we urge the government to address this issue urgently."
According to Nihangaza, the World Bank had granted the government a US $36 million credit and the World Fund of Fight against AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis had donated $8.6 million.
"These funds should be used to take care of HIV/AIDS orphans and poor children born with HIV," she said.
The government has indicated that it would use the funds to get at least 2,000 HIV-infected people on ARV treatment in the coming three years.
The workshop was organised by the four anti-AIDS associations: the Association Nationale de Soutien aux Séropositifs et Sidéens, the Society for Women and Aids in Africa - Burundi, the Famille pour Vaincre le Sida and Nouvelle Espérance.
Government figures at the end of 1999 estimated that there were 240,000 AIDS orphans in Burundi. In 2001 alone, more than 40,000 Burundians were estimated to have died of AIDS.
HIV/AIDS remains a major killer in Burundi. A recent report on the HIV/AIDS situation in the country, published in early 2003, said the HIV infection rate was falling in urban areas and increasing in the countryside.