September 1, 2010
A mobile HIV screening van purchased by the National Council Against AIDS has drawn crowds consistently since its December 2009 launch. A telethon helped raise $215,000 to purchase the van and outfit it with a sampling chair, refrigerator, laboratory, and generator.
In public places such as markets and major intersections, the mobile unit had tested 5,275 people through April, returning 114 (2.2 percent) positive results. That compares favorably with the country's two fixed testing centers, which have screened 40,085 people over five years, yielding 4,323 HIV-positive results (10.8 percent).
"We have already done over 50 tests, and there's still a crowd waiting," Dr. Wilfrid Hervé Poaty, manager of the mobile unit, said while parked in a south Brazzaville neighborhood. "There are usually 100 to 115 tests per outing. Amongst these, we often find two to three people with HIV."
The National Council wants to boost serostatus awareness in the Congo from the current 10 percent of residents to 50 percent by 2013, said Poaty. According to the council, 3.2 percent of the population, or about 120,000 people, have HIV/AIDS. In the capital, 1,700 patients receive treatment at the Brazzaville Outpatient Treatment Center (OTC).
In June, HIV/AIDS patients receiving care demonstrated at the Ministry of Health, with some complaining of expired treatments as well as shortages. The director-general of health, Alexis Elira Dokekias, denied both claims. However, the van was sidelined from late May to the middle of June after it ran out of chemical reagents for lab testing, council officials acknowledge.
"The drugs are available," according to the OTC's Dr. Merlin Diafouka. "We always have a three month reserve in our supply to avoid shortages."