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

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

1855 Slave Brochure Starkly Details Sale of Black Americans

Document lists entire families that were up for sale in New Orleans, offering graphic insight into the slavery trade More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries 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.
Survivor Video Testimonies Recount Horrors of Guatemalan Genocidei
X
Elizabeth Lee
August 31, 2015 8:23 PM
Next year marks the 20th anniversary of the end of the civil war in Guatemala. During the conflict that spanned more than three decades, tens of thousands of indigenous Mayans were killed in what is known as the Guatemalan genocide. Researchers are now collecting video testimonies of the survivors to preserve the memories of what happened to prevent future genocides. Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Survivor Video Testimonies Recount Horrors of Guatemalan Genocide

Next year marks the 20th anniversary of the end of the civil war in Guatemala. During the conflict that spanned more than three decades, tens of thousands of indigenous Mayans were killed in what is known as the Guatemalan genocide. Researchers are now collecting video testimonies of the survivors to preserve the memories of what happened to prevent future genocides. Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs