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International News

Democratic Republic of Congo: Patients Die Before Drugs Arrive

October 17, 2006

Access to health care is a problem in the Democratic Republic of Congo, scarred by years of ethnic strife and civil war. In the western part of the country -- where fighting between Congolese forces and the Mai Mai militia forced 200,000 villagers from their homes last year -- health care is delivered by one rural clinic funded by the French group, Medecins du Monde (MM). Based in the village of Mulange, the clinic covers 100 villages in isolated areas that are not easily accessed. Torrential rains can block villagers from reaching the clinic for care that includes treatment for malaria, cholera and HIV/AIDS.

Of the DRC's 60 million people, some 2.6 million have HIV/AIDS, according to official figures. Only 5,000 have access to antiretrovirals (ARVs).

In the eastern city of Goma, only 300 of the 1,600 people needing them have access to ARVs, according to health officials. "When we announce a refusal, the sick either react violently or with great depression," said Dr. Nino Manani, who works at an AIDS center in the city's main hospital built by MM. "They know [ARVs] improve life and they don't want to wait." Each month, the center submits names of 25 people considered suitable for the drugs; only 10 are chosen for the program.

UNAIDS was supposed to furnish ARVs to the DRC in July of last year, but it took until March for the drugs to arrive and shipments remain sporadic.

Pierre Sallah, MM's medical coordinator in Goma, said most ARVs that do arrive are first-line remedies, and second-line drugs are more expensive -- $350 a month for each patient, compared to $29 a month for first-line remedies.

Back to other news for October 17, 2006

Adapted from:
Agence France Presse
10.11.2006; Isabelle Ligner

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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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