Lack of Medical Staff Hindering AIDS Drug Treatment Programs in Africa, Tobias Says During Indiana Univ. Conference
A lack of medical personnel is hindering antiretroviral drug treatment programs across Africa, U.S. Ambassador Randall Tobias, head of the State Department Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator, said on Sunday at the opening of an Indiana University School of Medicine conference on the HIV/AIDS pandemic, the Indianapolis Star reports. The one-day conference focused on the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa and included a panel of medical, ethical, political and economic experts who discussed the "difficulty" of obtaining HIV/AIDS drugs for the continent, according to the Star. "We just can't get the drugs we need," Dr. Joseph Mamlin, co-founder of the IU Kenya partnership program between IUSM and Moi University in Kenya, said, adding, "We've recruited all these patients, but we've been unable to treat new patients with drugs for the last two months because the infrastructure needed to move the drugs to us in the quantities we need is not there." However, according to Tobias, the difficulty in administering the drugs results from a lack of medical staff across Africa. For example, there are only 500 physicians available in Mozambique for the country's total population of 18 million people.
Although shortages in medical personnel are slowing the implementation of drug treatment programs, funding for global HIV/AIDS initiatives has "never been higher," Tobias said, adding that the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief has granted IU Kenya approximately $15 million this year, according to the Star (Ruthhart, Indianapolis Star, 11/1). PEPFAR is a five-year, $15 billion program that directs funding to 15 focus countries, including the African nations of Botswana, Ethiopia, Cote d'Ivoire, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia; Haiti and Guyana in the Caribbean; and Vietnam in Asia (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 10/29). However, the "rest of the world's responsibility in fighting this pandemic -- to put it bluntly -- has not been enough," Tobias said. "We are making progress, but the challenges are many," Tobias said, adding, "We have a long way to go, but the American people should be proud of what their resources are making available."
According to Dr. Debrework Zewdie, director of the World Bank's Global HIV/AIDS Program -- who also spoke at the conference -- the United States, the World Bank and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria are the three "major" funding sources for Africa. But implementing the funding from these three sources has been "difficult" because differing "bureaucratic requirements" have "pulled these countries in three different directions," Zewdie said, according to the Star. Therefore, the United States, World Bank and Global Fund should combine their efforts to "make it easier for countries ... to use the money," according to Zewdie, the Star reports (Indianapolis Star, 11/1).