People living with HIV/AIDS in West as well as Central Africa continue to sufferneedlessly and die silently regardless of globally-agreed objectives to suppress the HIV epidemic by 2020, the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said in a new report released this week.
This comes two years after UNAIDS announced its “90-90-90” goal to make sure 90 percent of all people living with HIV know their status, 90 percent of them have begun antiretroviral treatment, and 90 percent of those on treatment have an undetectable viral load by 2020.
In “Out of Focus: How millions of people in West and Central Africa are being left out of the global HIV response,” MSF is calling on supporting agencies to address the treatment gap by developing and implementing a fast-track plan to scale-up lifesaving antiretroviral treatment (ART) for countries where critical medicines reach fewer than one-third of the population in need, particularly the 25 countries that make up West and Central Africa. These countries account for one in five new HIV infections globally, one in four AIDS-related deaths, and nearly half of all children born with the virus.
“The converging trend of international agencies to focus on high-burden countries and HIV ‘hotspots’ in Sub-Saharan Africa risks overlooking the importance of closing the treatment gap in regions with low antiretroviral coverage,” said Dr. Eric Goemaere, MSF’s HIV referent. “The needs in West and Central Africa remain enormous with three out of four people in need without access to HIV care – that’s five million out of the 15 million new people worldwide who should be started on treatment by 2020. The continuous neglect of the region is a tragic, strategic mistake: Leaving the virus unchecked to do its deadly work in West and Central Africa jeopardizes the goal of curbing HIV/AIDS worldwide.”
The West and Central Africa region has a low HIV prevalence with 2.3 percent of the population living with the virus. However, it is three times the worldwide prevalence of 0.8 percent, and pockets in the region have more than 5 percent of their population living with HIV, the threshold defining high prevalence. Despite this deceptively low average prevalence, only 24 percent of those in need have access to ARTs. It’s even worse for children – only 1 out of 10 receive ART, which is key in making sure they live long, healthy lives.
MSF’s report finds that in West and Central Africa needs are underestimated and little priority is given to HIV as a health issue in the region. The route to obtaining HIV treatment is an obstacle course for people living with HIV with barriers such as stigma, stock outs of diagnostics and drugs, patient fees, and unaffordable, burdensome and poor quality services. Recurrent crises following violence or epidemics compound.
source: My Informs.com