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

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

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

By the Numbers

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syriai
November 26, 2015 5:21 AM
Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs