News / Africa

Medical Agency Says Thousands of AIDS Victims at Risk in Congo

Jean Yata, who is suffering from AIDS, lies on a bed at the state hospital in Congo's capital of Kinshasa, October 2006. (file photo)
Jean Yata, who is suffering from AIDS, lies on a bed at the state hospital in Congo's capital of Kinshasa, October 2006. (file photo)

The medical aid agency Doctors Without Borders is calling on international donors and the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo to beef up funding and other resources for HIV/AIDS testing and treatment. The group estimates that some 85 percent of AIDS patients are not getting the treatment they need in that country. A statement from the group warns that up to 15,000 AIDS victims in DRC could die in the next three years because of difficulty getting life-saving drugs.

Dr. Laura Rinchey, who specializes in the treatment of HIV/AIDS, said 90 percent of her patients are virtually at death’s door when they come to her.

“They often have malnutrition, as well as tuberculosis, as well as toxoplasmosis, as well as other bacterial infections or other complications such as meningitis. We are lucky in that we have a lab on site so we can identify many of the illnesses; many we treat by presumption," said Rinchey. "But the problem is that the patients are so sick by that stage that the time it takes for the treatment to work is time that they do not have.”

Dr. Rinchey works in a 29-bed health center in the capital Kinshasa, with more than 3,500 outpatients. She said that most Congolese do not have access to HIV testing facilities, getting tested only when they are very ill.

She said Congolese hospitals do not have an across-the-board policy to test people who are admitted to the hospital. As a result, she explained, it might be several weeks before doctors think of administering HIV tests to their patients.

The medical aid agency Doctors Without Borders this week raised the alarm on what they call a “horrific” situation largely ignored by international donors and the Congolese government.

Doctors Without Borders’ medical coordinator in DRC, Anja De Weggheleire, estimates that one and a quarter million Congolese are living with HIV, most of whom do not know they are carrying the virus. She said 350,000 people are in immediate need of life-saving anti-retroviral [ARV] treatment, but only 44,000 people - or 15 percent - have access to such treatment.

“I think DRC does not receive the same emergency response to its epidemic as some other countries on this continent,” said De Weggheleire.

De Weggheleire said that in her 10 years’ experience of being an HIV clinician, the situation in DRC is like it was in the early stages of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, long before the availability of ARVs and other treatments.

“The situation as it is currently, and the state in which we see the patients arriving today, is unacceptable. The suffering that people have to undergo by delaying the treatment is unacceptable, and I hope therefore that donors will come forward very soon with more means to make treatment much [more] quickly available for all those patients,” said De Weggheleire.

In particular, she called on the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria - forced to cancel its next round of grant-giving due to a shortfall of donor money - to reinstate its funding as soon as possible so that more ARVs can be provided for free. Also, she said she thinks the Congolese government needs to put more resources into treatment, covering expenses such as consultations and hospitalization.

According to Doctors Without Borders, the Democratic Republic of Congo has one of the lowest ARV coverage rates in the world. In Africa, only Somalia and Sudan have similar coverage rates. It also has among the lowest rates in western and central Africa of the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

Only an estimated one percent of pregnant women living with HIV have access to treatment that would prevent them from passing HIV along to their unborn children. About one-third of babies exposed to HIV in the womb will end up being born with the virus.

You May Like

Syrian Rebels Poised for Anti-Russia Collaboration

Forty-one insurgent groups issue joint statement vowing retaliation for Russian air offensives More

Political Maneuver Revives Export-Import Bank's Chances

Parliamentary tactic gets bill out of committee, but it faces opposition in the Senate More

Beijing Warns US on S. China Sea Patrols

Warning follows news reports Thursday that US military is planning to sail warships close to artificial islands Beijing has been aggressively building More

This forum has been closed.
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.
House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdrawsi
Jim Malone
October 09, 2015 12:32 AM
The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

VOA Blogs