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African Nations Widen Medical Help to Women with HIV

September 4, 2001

Clinics in Brazzaville, Congo Republic, this week are beginning to provide the drug Nevirapine free of charge to HIV-positive pregnant women as part of an effort to block mother-to- child transmission. And Ghana said it is in negotiations in partnership with the World Health Organization to start direct manufacturing of drugs to treat the virus. Both steps are rare in sub-Saharan Africa, where dying with little or no modern medical treatment is the norm for the millions of people infected with AIDS.

The war-scarred Congo Republic, in central Africa, counts itself among the worst-off, with a 7 percent infection rate among its population of 2.8 million. Women in the Congo Republic suffer a higher infection rate than men. Health workers place part of the blame on rapes during the civil strife of the 1990s. Nevirapine is being provided by the German firm Böhringer-Ingelheim, which is taking part in a similar pilot project in South Africa. There, lobbying for widespread, free distribution of Nevirapine has been intense. The Brazzaville project is part of a larger campaign intended to educate women on the risk of transmitting the virus to their children and how to prevent it. Organizers will also encourage women to submit to tests to find out if they carry the virus, a difficult task in a part of the world where testing positive is often seen as a death sentence. One woman, Petronelle Mongha, said she suffered a "psychological shock" from her test last year, even though the results were negative. "If I was asked to take a test again, I would prefer to die with my baby in my belly," she said.

In Ghana, Health Minister Richard Anane announced last week that the government is working toward starting local manufacturing of HIV drugs next year by importing the formula from Thailand and the raw materials from another country, most likely South Korea. Ghana, where an estimated 4 percent of adults carry the virus, is also pursuing a separate deal to import Nevirapine and other drugs at low cost, Anane said.

Back to other CDC news for September 4, 2001

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Adapted from:
New York Times
09.01.01; Associated Press

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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