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Fatal Trends in African HIV Care
Voice of America reported that according to Doctors Without Borders (MSF), only 20 percent of HIV-positive individuals in French-speaking West and Central Africa receive antiretroviral therapy (ART).
MSF explained that although there is low prevalence of HIV in West and Central Africa, where less than 5 percent of the population is infected, ART is available to only one-fifth of the patients who need treatment. Many die before they receive a diagnosis because testing is not available.
Dr. David Maman, an MSF HIV specialist, explained that some parts of Africa have very few physicians, yet only physicians are allowed to prescribe ART. This causes a hardship for these countries, as patients are unable to access ART at the same rate as countries with more physicians. To meet this need, Maman suggests training less-qualified health workers, such as nurses, to test patients and prescribe ART. This was successful in other African countries, particularly in rural areas. Maman argues that allowing qualified non-physicians to test and treat HIV provides help for more people and would free doctors to focus on more complicated cases.
In West and Central Africa HIV testing and treatment are not included as part of regular healthcare, but are available at specialized clinics that usually are located in big cities.
Maman proposed that district clinics integrate HIV testing and treatment in the regular health services. HIV-positive individuals would not have to travel long distances for care or have to wait for a doctor to come to the district. Maman maintains that decentralizing treatment and including HIV care in rural clinics worked in Malawi. However, these changes require strong political will and financing. MSF suggests that governments and aid organizations should do more to help HIV-positive individuals in West and Central Africa.
This article is reprinted courtesy of CDCNPIN.org