CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: UN agency identifies sites for HIV/AIDS centres
BANGUI, 15 December (PLUSNEWS) - The UN Development Programme (UNDP) has begun identification of 16 sites for construction of HIV/AIDS detection-prevention-treatment centres across the Central African Republic, an official told IRIN on Friday.
Funding for the programme would come from the HIV/AIDS Global Fund, the UNDP resident representative, Stan Nkwain, said. "This is a legitimate ambition given the extent to which HIV/AIDS is ravaging the population," he said.
Nkwain added that the first phase of the two-year project, covering eight centres, would cost US $8 million. The centres include two centres in the capital, Bangui, one in Bossangoa, 305 km north of Bangui; one each in Boura, Bambari and Bria, 454, 385 and 597 km northeast of Bangui respectively; and one each in Bangassou and Mobaye, 742 and 608 km east of Bangui respectively.
Nkwain headed a UNDP mission to Bossangoa and Bouar from 8-11 December, which was aimed at assessing the needs of the local populations. Another UNDP mission to the other four towns left Bangui on Saturday and is due to assess the infrastructure and identify partners for the project. This mission ends on Friday.
He said that in some places, new facilities would have to be built while in others the existing health facilities would be reinforced. He said that for each centre, about 10 local anti-HIV/AIDS NGOs were needed to share tasks for awareness campaigns.
Once completed, he said, the centres would be used to test for HIV, provide anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs), treat opportunistic diseases as well as prevent mother-to-child HIV/AIDS infections. The services would initially benefit at least 7,000 HIV patients, who would receive free treatment.
Nkwain also said that the funds would be used to train health personnel on HIV treatment and follow-up of HIV patients. Currently, the CAR has only 11 medical doctors authorised by the Ministry of Health to prescribe HIV drugs.
A major priority for the UNDP programme was the training of more doctors on HIV drugs prescription, Nkwain said, adding that awareness education drives would also be organised to urge the population to undergo HIV/AIDS tests.
"While awaiting the completion of these centres, we are going to reinforce the existing laboratories to enable them to start HIV tests," Nkwain said. A follow-up committee comprising government, UN and NGO officials and other partners dealing with HIV/AIDS has been set up and is headed by the representative of the UN Children’s Fund, Dr Joseph Foumbi.
After the first two years, the second three-year phase worth $17 million would be launched for the remaining eight centres.
The HIV/AIDS Global Fund approved the whole programme after the World Bank cancelled its $17 million programme on HIV/AIDS due to the government's non-payment of its debt. Nkwain said that strategies had been laid down to enable the government to manage the centres when the programme ends in 2008.
Government statistics indicate that the CAR remains the most HIV-affected nation in central Africa with 14.8 percent of its 3.5 million inhabitants being HIV positive.
Immediate former Prime Minister Abel Goumba, who was dismissed on Thursday and later appointed Vice-President, announced on 5 December during celebrations to mark World HIV/AIDS Day that 75 percent of hospitalised patients at Bangui’s Hopital Communautaire were HIV positive.