Larger, More Comprehensive HIV/AIDS Treatment, Prevention Programs Needed To Stem Spread of HIV
A drop in the cost of antiretroviral drugs has enabled governments, foundations, pharmaceutical companies and international groups to support treatment initiatives in developing countries, but ensuring access to the drugs has proved to be a challenge, according to the current issue of Newsweek. More than four million HIV-positive people in Africa need treatment but only 50,000 people have access to the medicines. Furthermore, experts estimate that even if the drugs were free, only one million of the people who need treatment would have access to clinics that are capable of dispensing the drugs. Last year, the Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, with $50 million in foundation grants, launched an initiative to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission, called MTCT-Plus; such programs can prevent the spread of HIV to infants with as little as a single dose of antiretroviral medications, according to Newsweek. In addition to preventing vertical HIV transmission, the program, which builds on existing programs so that it can deliver treatment quickly and efficiently, seeks to prevent children who do not contract HIV during birth from becoming AIDS orphans by providing lifelong treatment for their HIV-positive parents. Experts agree that larger and more comprehensive treatment programs are needed. Such programs are being developed by the government of Botswana with help from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, drug companies and the Harvard AIDS Institute and by the governments of Rwanda, Mozambique and Tanzania with help from the William J. Clinton Presidential Foundation. Similar programs will be implemented through the global AIDS initiative, a $15 billion measure that "heralds a new era in AIDS control," according to Newsweek (Cowley, Newsweek, 7/14).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.