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Government slashes price of ARV treatment for AIDS
Tuesday 7 September 2004
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COTE D IVOIRE: Government slashes price of ARV treatment for AIDS

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

ABIDJAN, 3 June (PLUSNEWS) - The government of Cote d'Ivoire has announced plans to slash the price of antiretroviral (ARV) treatment for thousands of people living with AIDS with the help of a US $14 million grant from the United States.

Announcing the move on Wednesday, Health Minister ALbert Mabri Toikeuse said the government aimed to provide life-enhancing ARV therapy to 77,000 people living with AIDS at a cost to the patient of just 20,000 CFA francs (US $40) per year.

That is less than people living with AIDS in Cote d'Ivoire currently pay for just one month's ARV treatment.

Toikeuse announced the new measure on Wednesday in the presence of US envoy Randall Tobias, the head of President George Bush’s US $15-billion project to combat the HIV/AIDS pandemic in 14 African and Carribean countries.

“Starting this morning, 2015 patients will benefit from the drugs at a lower cost”, the minister said as he announced the launch of cut-price antiretroviral treatment at the University Teaching Hospital in Treichville, a neighbourhood of Abidjan, where the US government already runs an AIDS programme.

A briefing paper issued by the Ivorian government said the ARV drugs at the new cheaper price would be made available to 77,000 people across Cote d'Ivoire by 2008.

Patients will now only be required to pay 5,000 CFA francs ($10) for a three month supply of ARV drugs.

Until now, even those lucky enough to benefit from subsidised treatment have been paying six times more.

The price cut is part of an enhanced government drive to fight AIDS in this country divided by civil war which has the highest HIV prevalance rate in francophone West Africa.

Toikeuse said the government's new AIDS policy included free HIV testing for those who volunteer and free ARV therapy for pregnant mothers and children up to five years old.

The health minister also announced a new subsidised 2,500 CFA franc ($5) consultation fee for people seeking treatment for infectious diseases.

Local surveys have shown that a high proportion of people seeking treatment for infectious diseases are HIV positive. At Treichville University Teaching Hospital, about 75 percent of the 3,000 in-patients treated each year by the infectious diseases department are HIV positive.

Doctors' consultations in Cote d'Ivoire are expensive by African standards, ranging in price from 5,000 to 10,000 CFA francs ($10 to $20), so the subsidised fee for infectious diseases should encourage more people living with AIDS to come forward for treatment.

Toikeuse also announced that the government would open more HIV testing centres and health clinics specially equipped to treat AIDS-related illnesses.

“We are celebrating a good event”, Cyriaque Ako, the spokesman for the Ivorian Network of People Living with AIDS, told PlusNews following the ceremony.

However, the head of one local NGO, who asked not to be identified, warned that the distribution of ARV drugs could be delayed because of government arrears in paying local pharmacies for supplies already delivered to hospitals and patients.

According to official government statistics, Cote d'Ivoire has an HIV prevalence rate of 9.5 percent. However, many health workers fear that two years after a civil war split the country in two, the real rate is now much higher.

Cote d’Ivoire’s first HIV case was detected in 1985. Two years later, 500 cases were officially recorded. According to AIDS minister Christine Adjobi, by 2000 there were 420,000 AIDS-related deaths in the country.

The US Presidential Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which was launched last year, has earmarked $14 million for Cote d'Ivoire, which is one of only 12 African countries, including Nigeria, South Africa, Rawanda, Namibia, to benefit from the initiative.

Washington has already disbursed $2.5 million in Cote d'Ivoire. The PEPFAR programme aims to help provide ARV therapy to 77,000 Ivorians living with AIDS by 2008, prevent 265,000 new infections and cater for 385,000 AIDS orphans.

Tobias, the head of PEPFAR, said: “I am very pleased to see the strong political engagement in Cote d’Ivoire for the fight against AIDS despite the many challenges you are currently facing.”

The civil war which broke out in September 2002 has left rebel forces controlling the northern half of Cote d'Ivoire where many health centres and hospitals have been forced to close or operate at low capacity. Many doctors and nurses have fled, while others simply abandoned their posts because they were no longer being paid.

Health officials fear an upsurge of AIDS if the de-facto division of the country persists.


Recent COTE D IVOIRE Reports
Nurses run checkpoint gauntlet to get medicines for north,  30/Aug/04
AIDS activists angry at slow disbursement from Global Fund,  11/May/04
More than half the patients tested in rebel hospital HIV positive,  27/Jan/04
Activists warn against complacency over HIV/AIDS,  16/Dec/03
Global Fund offers $18 m to fight HIV/AIDS,  1/Oct/03
The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria
International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS
The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria

PlusNews does not take responsibility for info in links supplied.


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