NIGERIA: MSF research highlights treatment threat
[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]
ABUJA, 6 December (PLUSNEWS) - The lack of free AIDS treatment in Nigeria is increasing the risk of treatment failure, according to new research by the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF).
The research done in Nigeria’s economic capital, Lagos, among patients who had to pay for their treatment, revealed that 44 percent had multiple treatment interruptions or took insufficient dosages due to a lack of money.
“The medical effects of this are extremely worrying. These patients are more vulnerable to AIDS-related infections such as pneumonia or tuberculosis,” said MSF’s Dr Jens Wenkel.
When some of the “treatment interrupters” were enrolled on the MSF’s free treatment programme, they only have “half the immune system recovery compared to those receiving treatment for the first time”, said Wenkel.
“So, forcing people to pay and thereby risking treatment interruptions can make this life-prolonging treatment less effective. If we want people to survive on treatment, we have to ensure access to free care,” Wenkel noted.
The report, released yesterday in the Nigerian capital Abuja, at the International Conference on AIDS and Sexually transmitted infections in Africa (ICASA), found that 39 percent of respondents said they were forced to resort to begging to pay for their treatment, while 18 percent said they had to sell property – despite the government subsidizing AIDS drugs.
The survey showed that nearly 50 percent of those interviewed lived on less than US $36 per month, but paid between US $8-7 per month for the recommended package of government supplied antitretrovirals.
The research was conducted between August and November 2005 among 122 patients who are now enrolled on MSF’s free drug and diagnostic programme at the General Hospital, Lagos.
At the launch of the report Ibrahim Umoru, who is receiving his supply of life-prolonging drugs through MSF, said: “Most positive persons cannot afford the cost of treatment which is responsible for their interrupting treatment. The federal government has to provide free access and comprehensive care.”
MSF is treating more than 950 patients with ARVs in Nigeria.