Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Thousands refused ARV drugs in Uganda

Due to funding shortages many people in Uganda who need anti-retro-viral drugs for HIV-AIDS treatment are unable to get them. An informal ban on new patients receiving the drugs has been instituted in Uganda.

The two biggest donors of Uganda's ARV treatment program blame the global recession for the funding gaps. The Global Fund on AIDS, Malaria and TB has cut back on funding the program, while the US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief has kept funding levels the same. The leveling of funds to PEPFAR come despite campaign promises from now President Obama to put more money into the program.

From All Africa, writer Henry Zakumumpa tells us why the people are not getting live saving drugs.

Several organisations caring for people living with HIV/AIDS in Uganda have sounded alarm bells regarding their members who are being turned away at anti-retroviral treatment centres even when their CD4 counts (which determine patient immunity levels) show that they are due for treatment. An evening television news report on NTV Uganda on June 16 June, 2010 highlights the plight of hundreds of people with HIV/AIDS who are stranded at treatment centres which have declined to enroll them on treatment citing severe funding dilemmas for the lifelong ART drugs.

For people with HIV/AIDS, anti-retroviral treatment is the main hope of prolonging life. Anti retroviral drugs (ARVs) inhibit the ability of the HIV to multiply in the body.

Dr Peter Mugyenyi, the Executive Director of the Joint Clinical Research Centre (JCRC), one of the leading national providers of HIV/AIDS care and treatment in Uganda, acknowledges the problem.

"In Uganda, lower- than- anticipated funding support from PEPFAR and other donor entities in the past couple of years has forced many facilities to turn away new HIV-positive patients seeking ART," Dr Mugyenyi says in a foreword he wrote for the latest 2010 report of the International Treatment Preparedness Coalition (ITPC) entitled Rationing Funds, Risking Lives: World Backtracks on HIV Treatment.

Dr Deus Lukoye, the Kampala City Council HIV/AIDS Focal Person, has confirmed to this reporter that many ART sites in Kampala are turning away new patients due to donor funding deficits.

According to Prof. Michel Kazatchkine, Head of the Global Fund on AIDS, Malaria and TB, the United States President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) programme and the Global Fund together are providing almost 100% of the funding for ARV treatment costs in developing countries such as Uganda.

"I can't believe the world will let me die when the money that is needed to put me on treatment and prolong my life, for my family's sake at least, is available globally and even in my own country" says James Mbidde (not real name), 38, who has been turned away at two ART centres in Kampala.

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