News / Africa

HIV/AIDS Epidemic Still Ravaging African Countries

Pharmacists automatically dispense medicines loaded with anti-retrovirals at the U.S.-sponsored HIV/AIDS clinic at the Helen Joseph hospital in Johannesburg, South Africa, Nov. 15, 2012.Pharmacists automatically dispense medicines loaded with anti-retrovirals at the U.S.-sponsored HIV/AIDS clinic at the Helen Joseph hospital in Johannesburg, South Africa, Nov. 15, 2012.
Pharmacists automatically dispense medicines loaded with anti-retrovirals at the U.S.-sponsored HIV/AIDS clinic at the Helen Joseph hospital in Johannesburg, South Africa, Nov. 15, 2012.
Pharmacists automatically dispense medicines loaded with anti-retrovirals at the U.S.-sponsored HIV/AIDS clinic at the Helen Joseph hospital in Johannesburg, South Africa, Nov. 15, 2012.


Kim Lewis
Major progress has been made in Africa’s fight against HIV/AIDS but one of the major problems remaining is giving the thousands living with AIDS the drug therapies that can let them live a long life.

“In terms of the reality, unfortunately the reality is that while there’s been huge progress made in the fight against AIDS, there still remains a huge amount of more to do,” said Dr. Amir Shroufi, deputy medical coordinator for MSF in South Africa. 

The international medical aid group Doctors Without Borders, also known by the acronym, MSF, recently launched a series of films entitled “See What We See” on the HIV/AIDS epidemic. 

The films highlight the reality that the fight against HIV/AIDS is not over -- despite important achievements.  The film series features first-hand accounts of patients and doctors in South Africa, Lesotho, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Asian country, Myanmar. The reports describe problems treating HIV in the field, while highlighting innovative tools and strategies that work in combating the disease. 

“Every minute, a young woman is infected with HIV,” said Dr. Shroufi, “and AIDS remains the biggest burden of disease here in South Africa and in many other African countries. And we know that worldwide, it’s thought to be the biggest burden of disease among women in the ages of 25 to 44.” He takes those numbers from a World Health Organization report.

Shroufi emphasized the huge numbers of people still in need of treatment who don’t have access to Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART). , Some countries who have done well in improving access to treatment but others have done poorly in giving access to the drug therapy.

In South Africa, for example, there has been a huge scale-up in the past two years, reaching approximately 2.4 million people.

“It’s been a huge achievement.  It’s not without gaps,” Shroufi said. One of the weaknesses in South Africa is the supply chain. “In a lot of places around the country, there have been stock-outs of essential medicine,” he said. “But it’s a country that’s shown a lot of commitment to the fight against HIV.”

Congo not making HIV drug therapies available

The Democratic Republic of Congo is highlighted in the film series as one country that is not doing well in providing needed ARTs.

“It was estimated in a paper in ‘Science’ in 2012, that only about 12 percent of people in need of Anti-Retroviral Therapy actually have access to it. The job of getting the medicine to people who need it really has not been done in some places,” the MSF doctor explained.

In most countries around the world, new HIV infections are going down.  However, in other countries new infections are rising, such as in Lesotho. 

“Lesotho has one of the highest adult prevalence’s anywhere in the world, and we think the new infections in the country, unfortunately, are rising,” said Shroufi.    

Shroufi said MSF thinks there are a number of community models that can help provide access more effectively than the traditional city hospital.

“For those people to do well, models such as community art groups,… clubs where people living with HIV become experts in the condition (and) work with each other” are a more convenient model. He said community groups help to collect medicine for each other, reducing the amount of time spent going to clinics. Such community models are being adopted increasingly in many countries because they are effective.

“Those kinds of models, we think, are very, very important,” said Shroufi.

You May Like

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs