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

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year 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.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More