Uganda Begins Distributing Free Antiretroviral Drugs to 2,700 HIV-Positive People
Uganda on Monday became the second African country to begin distributing free antiretroviral drugs to HIV-positive people, Minister of Health Jim Muhwezi said, the AP/Boston Herald reports (AP/Boston Herald, 6/14). An estimated 100,000 of the 1.2 million HIV-positive Ugandans are in need of antiretroviral treatment, but as of December 2003 only 17,000 people had access to the drugs (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/4). Government price negotiations and generic versions of antiretroviral drugs have helped reduce the treatment costs from $1,500 per person, per month to $30 per person, per month, Muhwezi said. The drugs were scheduled to be delivered to hospitals on Monday and are scheduled to arrive at selected private clinics, police, army and research centers by June 26, Muhwezi said (Xinhua News Agency, 6/13). The government has stocked enough drugs to begin treating 2,700 patients, with priority given to low-income, HIV-positive people (New Vision, 6/12). The country initially will distribute $1.3 million worth of drugs, followed by $1.7 million worth of drugs, Muhwezi said. Funding for the program is provided by initial grants from the World Bank, and those funds are expected to be supplemented with an additional $70 million from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria over the next five years (Agence France-Presse, 6/12). Uganda in February also received $37 million in funding from the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. That amount represents half of what the country is expected to receive under the initiative for fiscal year 2004, and a portion of the money will be used to help provide antiretroviral drug treatment for 60,000 HIV-positive people as well as care and support for an additional 300,000 HIV-positive people (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/4). "We have decided to reach out using the initial limited resources, but we hope to fully roll out and get to everybody now that prices are ... going down," Muhwezi said (Agence France-Presse, 6/12).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.