News / Africa

Flawed Distribution Impedes HIV/AIDS Treatment in DRC

A man receives treatment, at an aids clinic run by Mdecins Sans Frontieres at Kinshasa, Congo, Nov. 1, 2006.A man receives treatment, at an aids clinic run by Mdecins Sans Frontieres at Kinshasa, Congo, Nov. 1, 2006.
x
A man receives treatment, at an aids clinic run by Mdecins Sans Frontieres at Kinshasa, Congo, Nov. 1, 2006.
A man receives treatment, at an aids clinic run by Mdecins Sans Frontieres at Kinshasa, Congo, Nov. 1, 2006.
Nick Long
KINSHASA — The Democratic Republic of Congo is listed in the 20 nations with the highest percentage of HIV/AIDS cases. More than one million people are known to be infected, but the exact numbers are not clear because of years of war.

Whatever the figures, there is no doubt that access to treatment is low. Lack of infrastructure and health services are major obstacles to delivering treatment and life-saving drugs the country receives have not always been well distributed.

Statistics in the DR Congo are notoriously unreliable. In the past, the government claimed that four percent of the population was HIV positive. Most scientists now think the real figure is closer to two percent.  But, even at two percent, the country has one of the lowest treatment rates in the world - with less than one of five of those with the disease receiving anti-retroviral drugs, or ARVs.

Patients charged for treatment

One reason for this is that ARVs are seldom free here, although by law they are supposed to be. Health centers not only routinely charge for the medication, they also charge for the CD4 test that HIV patients must take to determine if they are eligible for the treatment.

Thierry Detier, a consultant for the non-governmental organization Doctors Without Borders, says the charges can be a real barrier.

"There is a real need for free access to ARVs," he said. "A lot of people are being asked for $5 a month, or $15 for a CD4 test which is quite unachievable for most Congolese."

Doctors without Borders is one of the only organizations in Kinshasa which offers totally free treatment. One of its patients, a widow, says that she had abandoned her course of treatment at another center.

She says she was going to the Mukole Center and they started asking her for $5 a month. She could not pay it and stopped taking the drugs. It was only after she had fallen seriously ill that she was referred to Doctors Without Borders.

Testing, prevention strategy

Another reason for the low rate of treatment is that the Congo does not have a cogent strategy on disease testing and prevention.

For example, in some other African countries, pregnant women are routinely offered tests. And, in Zimbabwe, politicians recently submitted to being tested publicly to encourage the population to do the same. That is not the case in the DRC, where people are usually only tested after they show symptoms of the virus - and often, not even then.

Quotas

Some health zones have even been discouraged from HIV testing because of a system of quotas which limits the number of new patients they could treat.

The French NGO Doctors of the World is running two health zones in Eastern Congo. Staffer Francois Berdougo says the quota has resulted in many of their patients being denied drug therapy.

He says that until this year they were allowed to take only 10 new patients for ARV treatment each quarter and that at the end of last year they had about 800 people on a waiting list. This year the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), which had been managing the supply of ARVs, increased the patient quota, but did not increase the drugs supply.

Poor distribution

Detier from Doctors Without Borders says those drugs are often not distributed properly.

"In the past many health zones made a lot of testing and there were many people who were supposed to be on ARVs and they didn’t access them," he said. "At the same time in other health zones they were not testing at all, so the health centers received ARVs but they didn’t use them."

The UNDP had been managing the Congo’s procurement of ARVs from the Global Fund for the Fight against HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis. But the Global Fund has stripped the UNDP of its roll because of poor performance.

Dr. Bouzid Samir, who had been running the UNDP program,says distribution was not perfect, but says he thinks the Global Fund move was not fair. He suggests politics will plague whatever agency oversees drug distribution.

"The issue was mainly linked to distribution of top up salaries [to state health personnel] because to give top up salaries we needed a harmonized system, and to get this agreement has taken almost two years," said Samir.

The government has not pushed the ARV program as hard as it might have done because it has many other challenges for which it is also seeking donor support. It also knows that in future it will be expected to pay part of the ARV bill itself.

The Global Fund is insisting that, from now on, all countries pay five percent of the bill. The other main ARV donor, the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief is looking for a similar commitment.

Five percent  of the Global Fund’s current program in Congo would come to about $5 million.

Kinshasa has not yet given a written commitment to pay the contribution, without which activists warn, future funding for HIV/AIDS programs in Congo is not guaranteed.

You May Like

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Works to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Smithsonian senior research botanist Vicki Funk says ultimate goal is 'trying to get one-half of the diversity of plant life on Earth at the genus level in two years' More

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

Report from member of British think tank says Russian extradition requests keep targets from traveling More

US Lawmakers Weigh Turkish Anti-terror Moves

Turkey’s two-pronged campaign against Islamic State militants, Kurdish PKK forces provokes mixed reactions on Capitol Hill More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponentsi
X
Henry Ridgwell
July 28, 2015 9:53 PM
A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video Special Olympics Athletes Meet International Friends

The Special Olympics are underway in Los Angeles, California, with athletes from 165 countries participating in an event that gives people with intellectual disabilities the chance to take part in an international competition. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that for athletes and their families, it's also an opportunity to make new friends in an international setting.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs