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Tuesday 21 February 2006
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GUINEA-BISSAU: First ARVs arrive, but no-one trained to prescribe them

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

BISSAU, 18 January (PLUSNEWS) - A first consignment of antiretroviral (ARV) drugs for people living with AIDS has arrived from Brazil for distribution free of charge to people living with AIDS in Guinea-Bissau. However, local doctors and nurses have not yet received training in how to use the drugs and will be reliant on medical manuals to learn how to prescribe them.

The first consignment of 170 kg of ARVs provided by Brazil under an agreement to help control AIDS in Guinea-Bissau, was delivered by Brazilian foreign minister Celso Amorim during a brief visit to the capital Bissau on Saturday.

Guinea-Bissau's health minister Odete Semedo said distribution would begin immediately and the drugs would be offered free of charge. She declined to say how many people would benefit from ARV treatment, but estimated there were nearly 43,000 HIV-positive people in this small West African country of 1.3 million inhabitants.

Several doctors and nurses from Guinea-Bissau were due to visit Brazil to receive training in antiretroviral therapy last year, but they have not yet left. Semedo said local medical staff would therefore use manuals sent with the first consignment of drugs to determine who should receive ARV drugs and in what dosages.

Carlos Costa Ribeiro, executive secretary of the Associacao Nova Vida (New Life Association), a self-help group for people living with AIDS, said he was overjoyed by the arrival of the drugs.

"Our hopes have been raised a great deal by the the arrival of these medicines, but we still don't know how they are going to be distributed," he told PlusNews.

The association, created in 2002, claims 245 members, including health minister Semedo and other well-wishers who are not themselves HIV positive.

It meets twice a week at an AIDS testing and counselling centre in Bissau, but Costa Ribeiro said that so far the association had not received any financial support from the government.

Until now, antiretroviral therapy has not been available at all in this former Portuguese colony. However, some people living with AIDS have obtained treatment in neighbouring Senegal, where ARV drugs are prescribed free of charge to those who need them by the government.

Costa Ribeiro complained that many people in Guinea-Bissau still refused to take AIDS seriously. "The worst thing is that some people don't believe in the existence of the disease. There are even doctors who doubt its existence, but they should know that it really does exist and there is no lack of proof that it does," he said.


Recent GUINEA-BISSAU Reports
Brazil to sponsor first ARV treatment programme,  3/Dec/04
Government launches first big push against AIDS,  27/Jul/04
Country's first AIDS treatment centre opens in renovated hospital,  19/Dec/03
Prime Minister to chair committee on HIV/AIDS,  5/Nov/03
· AIDS Media Center
· The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria
· International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS
· International HIV/AIDS Alliance

PlusNews does not take responsibility for info in links supplied.

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